Finding the right talent: Getting past the skills gap

Finding the right talent for your company can be a real challenge in today’s economy. There is a very real gap between the soft skills that are taught in schools and the hard realities of working for your company. Whether you are in high tech, manufacturing, or the hospitality industry there is bound to be a specific skill set that you cannot do without. Yet, all the HR departments and recruiters in the world never seem to find enough people to fill these crucial positions. There is one tried and true way to acquire the talent that your company will need in the future, and that is to grow it yourself.

Although internships are a traditional way to acquire talent from the college ranks, there is an internship skills gap to overcome that is as severe as that of potential employees.

Successful Internships

It is possible to overcome the internship skills gap. To be a successful for both the intern and your company, internships must be:

  • Carefully monitored
  • Comprised of meaningful work
  • Be designed with a concrete goal that can be achieved or failed

A successful internship is meant to produce an employee that is ready, willing and able to be hired to entry level positions in the company. There needs to be a balance between the personal goals of the intern and the organizational needs of your company. Although some interns will be satisfied with college credit and will move on to different career goals, the aim of your company should be grooming candidates that are likely to make your company their primary career goal.

Finding The Right Intern

There are different sources of internships that you should consider when trying to overcome the internship skills gap, weighing each against the needs of your company:

  1. High School – Although some think that high school students lack the requisite maturity to be a successful intern, adding these individuals to the pool may increase your chances of discovering a truly talented individual who could be an asset to your company.
  2. Undergraduate – The most popular source of interns, undergrads are often exactly where you want them to be in life to make the most out of an internship. 
  3. Graduate – Grad students or recent grads often lack meaningful experience and are aware of this fact.  Your internship is often they only way they have to get their foot in the door, but they also have living expenses that may force them to take paid employment elsewhere. Take the time to consider paid internships for individuals with high academic achievement.
  4. Career Changer – This is often an overlooked candidate, but hard working individuals that wish to transition into your field mid-career can often be your best chance to overcome the internship skills gap

Problematic Internships

Not all internships are mutually beneficial. Interns are not intended to be free labor; rather they should be enrolled in a short term learning program designed to identify, evaluate, train and hire future employees. 

Internships should not:

  • Be idle positions where no real results are expected 
  • Replace positions that should be assigned to a full time employee
  • Be composed of more than 20% of non-specialized work like covering phone or filing

The internship skills gap doesn’t have to be insurmountable. Internships may just be the ideal fit for your company, providing you with talent for the future and developing your future leaders as well. 

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Bridge is a program that focuses on connecting employers and students in Rhode Island. The goal of Bridge is to match Rhode Island employers with talented students looking to gain valuable professional experience. Applying knowledge and skills acquired in college to a professional setting is a vital component of a student’s college education. Students who gain relevant internship experience are better prepared for full-time employment after graduation. By hiring interns, employers gain qualified, career-driven young professionals as employees. Student bring with them exposure to cutting edge practices and technology, new insights and philosophies, flexibility and a thirst for knowledge. bRIdge has a particular focus on connecting students and employers from specialized fields such as Business, Science, IT, Technology, Health, Design, Engineering and Manufacturing. The bRIdge website allows employers to post paid or unpaid internships online and directly reach out to a vast and talented pool of students. College students and recent graduates can sign up and start looking for an appropriate professional learning opportunity in minutes. bRIdge is a program of the Rhode Island Student Loan Authority (RISLA) and RISLA’s College Planning Center of Rhode Island. RISLA has joined up with Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Rhode Island (AICURI), the Rhode Island Board of Governors for Higher Education (RIBGHE) and the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce to bring together academia, business and community. If you have any questions about this program or if you need any assistance, please feel free to contact us.

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