Blog: Jessica Pfeiffer

Jessica Pfeiffer is a native Detroiter, currently a resident of Corktown, and the Executive Director of The MORE Program (MI Resources & Opportunities for Entrepreneurs).She is also an Adjunct Professor at the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law and serves on the board of Southwest Solutions. Jessica will be writing about creating internship opportunities to train and retain our region's college students.

Post No. 4

Internships Provide a Win-Win Situation 

In my first post, I shared my personal story of how my inability to find an interesting and challenging internship in my field while still a student led me to open my career horizon beyond the state’s borders and ultimately move out of Michigan for quite a few years. Why did this occur? 

It happened in part because not all employers have yet realized the vital importance of internships as part of a healthy recruiting process. All of the largest corporations, banks, accounting firms, law firms and government agencies have included an internship program as part of their recruitment programs, what about everyone else?   

When we talk to companies about whether or not they hire interns, we hear all the usual arguments: managing an intern takes up too much time, they need too much training, they are too expensive, we don’t know how to find one… 

Some of them think companies who hire interns are just doing the community a service, providing training to the workforce of the future. However, if you speak to companies that rely on interns as part of their recruiting process they will tell you that interns bring more positives to the table than negatives, at companies as large as General Motors or as small as Digerati Solutions, a Detroit process engineering and software development company that is currently employing its first engineering student intern.   

What these companies tell us is that by hiring interns, they are able to hire young, excited and energetic employees to take on projects that keep getting pushed aside while fighting fires or to add new blood to teams that are stretched thin or need a creative infusion. 

These companies are also able to "test-drive" new employees without any long term employment costs, because most internships last only for the summer or the semester and most do not pay benefits. With companies now hiring high school students as interns and large corporations paying interns top dollar for summer jobs in all the big cities, its clear that to keep up in the competition for talent, companies must consider adding or enhancing an internship program. If they don’t, they risk losing the best and brightest who may be snatched up by their competitors in the state or beyond. 

Its clear that other states are thinking similarly, and economic development agencies, thinkers and leaders in our neighbors such as Indiana,
Ohioand the city of Philadelphia have launched programs to promote internships in their areas.  

I believe this is an area where great minds truly do think alike, and Michigan business and community leaders are coalescing around the idea of a state-wide push to promote internships.  

The good news is that there seems to be some real synergy among several programs that are in the works in the state of Michigan to do address this issue, which together could lead to that state-wide movement that I think is necessary. 

I am a member of a committee convened by Michigan Future, Inc., 
whose goal is imagining what is necessary to create a reality where that every college student in the State of Michigan has an opportunity to have a meaningful summer or semester work experience that has the potential to lead to a permanent job during their junior or senior year. 

Lofty goal? Yes, but why shoot for anything less? Some other really great programs are in the works, too.  The Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce is working on a program that was funded by the United States Department of Labor’s WIRED grant for Southeast Michigan to create a simple system for employers to easily connect their internship opportunities with college career offices throughout the region. They also have hosted in the past and will plan again in the future to host programs that help employers plan internship programs if they don’t already have one in place. 

The Engineering Society of Detroit
has a very innovative internship program it's promoting to bring high school seniors into engineering companies as interns.  Business Week, Time and other publications have reported on high school student internship programs as a growing trend, so expect other similar programs to follow. 

Imagine the value of an employee who works for you in the summer, and then goes back to school for 8 months a year, bringing a fresh infusion of energy every summer and then becomes your most valuable "new hire" ever upon graduation- they will be so far along the learning curve!   

All of this positive energy is encouraging- but I don’t yet think its everything that we need.  In my last post, I’ll address a few holes that I still think exist in the plans.