GUEST CONTRIBUTOR, ASHLEIGH DROZ, DIRECTOR OF THE OFFICE OF INTERNSHIPS & COOPERATIVE PROGRAMS, FLORIDA GULF COAST UNIVERSITY
An internship is more than a job. In fact, for many, a work-based learning experience, such as an internship or cooperative program, can be career-affirming or career-altering. Whether a high school student dipping their toes in the proverbial water before diving into a college major, a university student exploring or gaining experience in their intended field before graduation, or a seasoned professional looking to make a career change, these types of experiences can inspire passion, persistence, or a critical pivot in those who will ultimately be the future of our fields.
So how do we ensure that the opportunities we offer will serve as high quality learning experiences for hungry future interns of all ages? By incorporating a few critical components that will both challenge and support them as they expand their professional horizons. Let’s dig in.
First, work together with your intern to create clear learning objectives related to their professional goals and academic coursework. Successful internships always start with clear outcomes. Sitting down with an intern to discuss who they are and where they are headed means you can create an experience that aligns with their end-goal AND yours. You’ll see much more enthusiasm, energy, and excitement. And if you follow through with projects that line up with these goals? Well, you are also bound to see more satisfaction, productivity, and commitment. That’s a win-win.
Engage student-interns in authentic tasks considered meaningful to the organization. Internships can get a bad rap. We often see interns in the media spilling whole-office coffee runs down the front of their suits, filing mountains of paperwork for weeks on end, or picking up the boss’ dry cleaning (think: The Devil Wears Prada). However, a high quality internship experience should instead encourage the practical application of academic coursework and skills development in a professional setting. The best way to do this usually includes hands-on projects that align with your company’s overall mission and everyday efforts, as well as the intern’s career and academic goals. Not only will an intern gain a strong foundation of work experience, but they will also be much happier with their employer – YOU – if they feel they are making a contribution where it really counts.
Provide student-interns with supervision by and support from an experienced professional in the field in which the intern will be working. On the most basic level, a great internship comes with a designated supervisor who has experience in the intern’s area of focus. This is an important distinction to make on many levels! For example, let’s say you are interested in hiring an intern to work on your organization’s social media. My first question to you would be “who currently oversees your social media?” If your answer is something along the lines of “our in-house social media expert”, we’re golden! If your answer is more like “no one, that’s why we need an intern”… well, you are likely looking for a part-time employee or a contract hire. A student needs someone to learn from who is also accessible, supportive, and available to provide routine feedback, as an internship is meant to be a supplement of a valuable education.
Lastly, ensure a comfortable, safe, and empowering environment as a foundation for a student-intern’s experience. Taking stock of the current culture, resources, and physical space of your workplace is an important step before bringing on an intern. We generally consider the physical safety of our spaces regularly, but it is also important to check in with the inter-workplace dynamics, organizational policies, overall expectations, and technology and facilities available to ensure your student has what they need to be successful. If an intern’s basic professional needs are met, they are much more likely to shine!
These components are bound to get you started on laying the groundwork for a successful internship program, in part before your intern even starts! There is always room to improve and evolve as an internship host or supervisor, but these first few steps are bound to carry you and your team – interns included – through the type of experience everyone will benefit from, now and in the future.
To start your internship experience, contact Alex Breault (email@example.com) at the Greater Naples Chamber to learn more about engaging in work-based learning and how she can help you implement an internship program.
Guest Contributor, Ashleigh Droz (firstname.lastname@example.org) Director of the office of Internships & Cooperative Programs at Florida Gulf Coast University.
The Leadership Collier Foundation (LCF), of the Greater Naples Chamber, has named high school senior Julien Zappulla as its first-ever student board member. The decision to add a student board member was rooted in the desire to hear the student perspective on issues, especially as the Foundation’s work with youth and talent development continues to grow.
“As the LCF continues to advance our work with talent development, having a student voice on our board of advisors has proven to be very valuable,” said Amanda Beights, vice president of LCF. “Julian is not only a graduate of our Youth Leadership Collier (YLC) program but has also been active in the Foundation’s work-based learning initiative. We look forward to continuing this model of student involvement with all of our work moving forward.”
Zappulla, a 2019 Youth Leadership Collier graduate, attends Seacrest Country Day School where he is the captain of the robotics team and a member of the varsity soccer team. Additionally, he sings in the Naples Philharmonic Chorus. Zappulla also spends time mentoring local robotics teams, refereeing robotics competitions and creating STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs at the Boys and Girls Club.
“I am passionate about both the Greater Naples Chamber and LCF because I have a drive to communicate and network with people, and YLC was truly a life changing experience for me,” said Zappulla. “As an LCF board member, I look forward to providing a student perspective in discussions at board meetings and other events.”
Zappulla plans to attend Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts where he hopes to receive a masters in robotic engineering and artificial intelligence. His primary goal through a career in engineering is to advance the intelligence, design, and useful capacity of machinery, emphasizing robotic systems and controls.
To view all members of the LCF advisory board, click here.
Fellowship Provided State and Local Chambers with Opportunities to Engage Nationally on Critical Education and Workforce Issues
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation announced Alex Breault, director of work-based learning of the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce graduated from its premier business leadership program. The inaugural Business Leads Fellowship Program trained and equipped leaders from state and local chambers of commerce with resources, access to experts, and a network of peers to build their capacity to address the most pressing education and workforce challenges.
“It was an honor to participate in this program with so many talented chamber professionals from around the country,” said Breault. “This experience has given me the tools and knowledge to better understand our workforce development opportunities.”
“As clearly displayed throughout this program, state and local leaders know better than anyone the critical link between education and economic development,” says Cheryl Oldham, senior vice president of the Center for Education and Workforce. “Not only did the Fellows gain a network of peers and experts in the field, the program is designed to help these leaders find opportunities to develop initiatives that will continue to advance the growth of their local economy and put education policy into practice.”
Following a competitive application and selection process, Breault was selected along with 32 other state and local chamber executives to participate in the second cohort. The four-month program covered the entire talent pipeline, including early childhood education, K-12, higher education, and workforce development.
Upon completion, Business Leads Fellows join the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s dedicated network of 200 chambers of commerce and statewide associations from around the nation who regularly engage on education and workforce initiatives.
In the modern workplace, even the most entry-level positions seem to require some form of related, hands-on experience. That is why Collier County high school and college students are turning to local internships to get a jump-start on their careers.
Jake Goguen, a senior at Florida Gulf Coast University completing a major in biology and a minor in chemistry, spent the summer interning for Arthrex, an orthopedic medical device company headquartered in Naples. His goal? To gain experience in the field of industry research.
Goguen first learned of the Arthrex internship program through his involvement with Youth Leadership Collier (YLC), a weeklong intensive program managed by the Chamber’s Leadership Collier Foundation that seeks to develop ethical leaders committed to active community involvement.
“YLC allowed me to gain knowledge of what opportunities were available in our area and helped point me in the direction of pursuing medicine and opportunities with Arthrex,” said Goguen. “The program also helped prepare me for college, giving me the chance to refine my leadership style, speaking abilities and networking.”
Goguen’s primary responsibility during his Arthrex internship was to conduct shelf life and degradation studies of Arthrex parts. He also played a pivotal role in testing prototypes, new equipment and studies with the Orthobiologics team.
“My internship has been an amazing experience that I would recommend to anyone,” said Goguen. “The Research and Development team that I worked with is extremely knowledgeable and helpful. Their guidance and this experience have really helped me solidify my goals.”
While the internship experience was undeniably impactful for Goguen and his career aspirations, his contributions—along with the contributions of each summer intern across Collier County— supported the company’s overall development and growth.
“Not only do internships benefit students, but they are important for our business as well,” said Alyssa McCoy, recruiter at Arthrex. “Interns provide teams with short-term support, fresh ideas and positivity to assist us with accomplishing our goals.”
In addition to the valuable input interns provide, companies who engage interns can significantly reduce the cost, time and effort when it comes to recruiting and training new hires. For this reason, the Chamber’s Leadership Collier Foundation is committed to cultivating opportunities for local businesses to partner with local students. The mutually beneficial internships equip students with professional, hands-on skills and, ultimately, encourage them to return to Collier County after graduation.
“Starting an internship program can be challenging and time consuming, but it can bring both the students and the company great success,” said McCoy.
Goguen is thankful to have been one of those students.
“My experience has prepared me for leadership positions at FGCU as well as given me a better understanding of the different industries in Collier County that I could potentially enter after graduation.”
After attending medical school, Goguen plans to move back to Collier County where he hopes to conduct research with Arthrex as an orthopedic surgeon. He credits his internship experience in large part for helping him solidify his career aspirations.
“You feel like part of a larger team, and I couldn’t be more grateful to have completed my internship experience in Collier County."
Chamber Membership Intern
Senior at Ave Maria University
Currently studying history with a minor in communications.
What projects did you work on during your internship?
During my six month internship I updated member information, such as adding logos and revising employee information, sent out letters congratulating members on ribbon cuttings or important milestones and supported the Chamber team whenever possible. I also enjoyed working at the annual Chamber Classic Golf Tournament, where I was able to network with some incredible people, as well as attending new member meetings where I saw first hand how the chamber assists business owners and encourages networking with one another.
What surprised you the most during your internship at the Chamber?
I was most surprised by the Chamber’s operations during my internship. Before applying for the position, I had no clue what a Chamber of Commerce was and how it worked. Upon doing research and being a part of the membership team, I was amazed how close businesses worked with the Chamber and how they interacted with one another to build up the business world of the Greater Naples area.
What’s your favorite memory from your internship?
My favorite memory from the internship would have to be assisting in the Chamber Classic Golf Tournament. I was able to interact with many different members and connect with past Florida Senator Garrett Richter. And witness a hole in one!
Do you have advice for students applying to or starting internships?
My advice for students who are applying to internships would be to make sure that you do research on the business or organization you are applying to in order to know what skills or knowledge you can showcase in your future projects. When applying don’t be afraid to possibly go out of your field of study, though being a history major, I have picked up skills and knowledge on how a nonprofit operates and can apply that knowledge later in my career.
For those who are starting an internship, be sure to walk in with a positive attitude and the determination for success. Your internship experience will be based on your attitude towards the work you do and how well you do it.
Now that I have finished my internship, I’m looking to finish up my senior year and after graduation begin the process of commissioning as an officer in the United States Air Force. It’s been a dream of mine since I was a kid to be a pilot and I feel I have what it takes to take on the challenge.