Polk Vision and the Central Florida Development Council are rolling out a new Internship Guide to assist businesses wanting to start or advance a program to attract young talent to their companies.

Polk Vision and the CFDC Talent Pipeline’s Countywide Higher Education Workforce developed the guide that includes Southeastern and Florida Polytechnic universities, Florida Southern and Polk State College, Warner and Webber International universities, Ridge and Traviss technical colleges, and Keiser University.

According to the guide’s mission statement: “Our mission is to promote the development of a motivated professional pipeline of talented people seeking and securing exciting career opportunities in Polk County, Florida. Education and training are only part of the equation. Work experience for students will foster growth and give them a chance to practice and perfect the skills they are learning. For the future workforce to be successful, internship and experiential learning are essential. In establishing professional internships with business partners and community organizations, Polk students will have the chance to work with and be mentored by industry professionals. This motivated professional pipeline will ensure continuing success for your company and the workforce of the Central Florida community.”

That falls into its keywords:  Attract students to Polk County schools, then engage them while they are here in an effort to retain them. It includes a list of resources, including Handshake, a one-stop career platform matching students and employers.

The guide also spotlights some of the work being done, such as online career and internship fairs, a countywide college career fair, chances to meet key people in certain industries and employer “meetups.”

“The guide defines and aligns the terms and protocols for internship work experiences,” said Polk Vision Executive Director Kim Long.  “It is intended to streamline the process for business, students and educational institutions through the use of common and widely adopted descriptions.”

Why Internships Matter

Devyn Montalvo, director of Career Services & Community Outreach at Webber International University in Babson Park and a member of the committee that championed the guide, said internships allow students opportunities to understand career fields up-close and personal.

“Most people don’t have an idea of what they want to pursue until they’ve worked a few jobs and learned some lessons,” Montalvo said. “Internships provide an opportunity to cut through some of that noise before going into a field, which gives a student a better opportunity to narrow down their path before they actually enter the job market.”

All students should have at least one internship, she said. More are great but interning just to pad a resume shouldn’t be the course students follow. Instead, the emphasis should be on internships that give them a competitive edge in the job market and finding a career path that will be fulfilling.

“Internships are a ‘test run’ of sorts, allowing the student to get a better idea of whether they actually want to pursue that field in the future,” Montalvo said. “They should be able to determine by the end of the internship if they want to continue on their current path or if they need to pivot and try something else.”

But there’s more to consider, she said. “A solid program will also help them develop transferable skills that they can continue using in a variety of settings after the internship has ended.”

Companies Starting Programs

Employers have certain responsibilities, such as creating job descriptions, posting internships, interviewing candidates and properly training interns.

For companies starting internships, the guide provides information on laws governing the programs, whether interns should be paid or can be unpaid, and other frequently asked questions.

Montalvo has advice for companies that want to start an internship program: Check with the internship and career offices at colleges and universities near you and lean on them. “I can say with confidence that all of the career/internship offices at Polk County higher education institutions are more than happy to help guide employers who are looking to hire interns. We understand that it can be overwhelming, which is why we took the time to create the Internship Guide.”

Internships can play a pivotal role in our local economic development, Montalvo said. “One of the main goals of the Polk Vision/CFDC Talent Pipeline Team is to prepare our local students (both K-12 and post-secondary) for the workforce. But not only that, we want to prepare them for the Polk County workforce. We want to give a great education to students who will then reinvest their knowledge into our community.”

Most students finish their degrees and then return home, she said. Internships provide an opportunity to change that. “If our local Polk County employers would consider hiring one or more interns, that would open so many more doors for our students to potentially stay in the Polk County area, which in turn boosts our local economy.”

Students who successfully complete their internships have a 71% retention rate after one year on the job.

Please find below the Internship Guide and HERE you can find a template for creating/posting a new job in Handshake from CHEW.