JENNA BUZZACCO-FOERSTER, DIRECTOR OF GOVERNMENT RELATIONS
The start of the 2021 Florida legislative session is quickly approaching, and legislative watchers can expect a jam-packed 60 days.
Session officially begins on Tuesday, March 2 and runs through Friday, April 30. While lawmakers have been in Tallahassee off-and-on over the past few months for committee hearings, March 2 will mark the first time legislators have been fully gathered as a lawmaking body since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
Look for lawmakers to tackle a variety of issues impacting businesses during the two month period, including several issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic. One measure quickly moving through the Legislature: A bill to create COVID-19 liability protections for businesses.
The House bill has cleared all of it’s necessary committee stops, and is teed up for a vote of the full House in the coming weeks. House Speaker Chris Sprowls has indicated he would like to have the bill approved by the House and sent to the Senate within the first week. A similar Senate bill has been approved by the first of three Senate committees.
The Greater Naples Chamber supports legislation to provide liability protections to businesses and other organizations for damages related to COVID-19. Here’s where we stand on a variety of topics expected to be front and center during the next two months.
WHERE WE STAND
For more information about the Greater Naples Chamber’s 2021 legislative priorities or to learn more about you can get involved, contact Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, the Chamber’s director of government relations, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
ALEX BREAULT, DIRECTOR OF WORK-BASED LEARNING
While educating employers about hiring interns, we typically hear the hesitation in their voices but soon after they hire their first intern, we receive fantastic testimonials like the one from Jenny Gazella.
"When first approached by the Greater Naples Chamber and learning about the NAF Academies internships provided by Collier County Public Schools, I was leery. Did I have time to spend teaching someone the business only to have it be someone who only worked 150 hours?
After meeting with Alex Breault at the Chamber, I decided it couldn’t hurt to at least post an opportunity. I was amazed how fast I had applications and not just that but how professional the students applying were. We ended up hiring Ashley. Ashley is an amazing young woman with big aspirations in the Bio-Chemical field. Nothing related to tourism, however, during her interview she was honest and really looking to better herself all-around. She mentioned how she never thought she would be applying for a position like this but wanted to grow her customer service skills to be able to work with others in her community and learn about handling day to day in-person situations.
We decided to give Ashley a try and I am so happy we did for so many reasons. First, I saw Ashley grow and become more confident in herself as a person and in the position. She was timid at first with the phones and speaking face to face with customers and now she is a natural. Second, Ashley started during a very difficult time for all businesses, in the middle of COVID. She was a great candidate even without the school program but having the program pay for her 150 hours truly helped the business during a difficult time. Third, both Ashley and I felt she was a great asset to the company and after she completed her internship hours we have now employed her. There is not one thing I would change about this amazing opportunity and I am grateful to the Chamber and Collier County Public Schools for all that they do to help students become apart of our community. " -Jenny Gezella, President, Naples Princess
The Collier County Public Schools has grant money available for a limited time only to pay an intern to work for your organization. ($10 an hour for up to 180 hours) To learn more about this opportunity and how an intern can benefit your organization too, contact Alex Breault.
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.