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With summer quickly approaching, students across the region are starting to sketch out plans for their time off from school. For some, that may mean a part-time job or volunteering. For others, it’s the perfect opportunity to explore an internship.

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Volunteer hours are now a graduation requirement at many high schools and colleges. Students try to complete these hours early in their education usually with an organization they are passionate about, but they’re often faced with a question of how they can earn money, while also gaining the valuable experience necessary to excel in their chosen field.

The solution: Internships. As more and more employers throughout Southwest Florida offer paid internships, students can get hand-on experience in their area of interest while earning a small income.

Internships have a long-term impact on a student’s future. Traditional part-time, summer jobs are beneficial in a wide variety of ways, including teaching students the necessary soft skills – from arriving on time to customer service – that are vital to their future success. But they aren’t always in a student’s desired area of professional growth.

Traditional internships provide students with access to training that will hone their skills, mentors who will encourage their success, and opportunities that will open their eyes to what the future can hold.

While the number of internships is growing, not every student can spend a summer working in their desired field. That means employers across all industries should take steps to create positions that emulate the internship experience. At the Leadership Collier Foundation, an affiliate of the Naples Chamber, we work with local businesses and schools to create the right opportunities for our businesses and future talent.

Students who have traditional, part-time jobs – such as working in the mall or at a restaurant – should be able to have the same education-based experience as an intern. Employers can do that by providing student employees with a variety of learning opportunities, from providing an inside look at operations and the opportunity to work in other departments to continued education and constructive feedback.

And traditional internships aren’t always the answer. Employers can consider adding micro-internships to their host of opportunities, opening the door to the next generation of employees. These are short-term, paid professional assignments that can be completed by an entry-level new hire, with minimal guidance or onboarding. Micro-internship projects can be anything from social media monitoring, to data clean up or content creation. Assignments can range from five to 40 hours of work, typically pay between $200 and $600 per project, and can be completed remotely. This type of internship is attractive to employers who either aren’t ready to host an intern or don’t have the resources to hire a part-time intern.

“I believe that the best real-work experience a student can have is through an internship,” said Denise Murphy, general manager at the The Players Club & Spa. “Internships help students develop and learn professional skills that promote growth and development. As an employer, it gives us the opportunity to mentor, teach and guide our interns in their learning process. The best part is we get to nurture their skillset and ideally bring them on as a paid full-time employee.”

When our team talks to employers about intern opportunities, we encourage them to consider hiring a student beginning at minimum wage. Although unpaid internships are beneficial to students who receive school credit, employers who can offer paid internships are quickly able to see it was worth the investment. Offering paid internships opens the door to a more diverse pool of interns, allows interns to feel like they are part of the team, and leads to a more productive and positive experience. As students begin their hunt for a summer job, we encourage local businesses to look at ways they can incorporate work-based learning into their offerings.

Our economy thrives when we provide students with educational and fulfilling work experiences. These opportunities expose students to high-skill, high-wage jobs available in Southwest Florida and help grow the next generation of community leaders.

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For more information about work-based learning, visit NaplesChamber.org/CollierLeads.

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