Matt Sanford
Economic Development Manager
City of Carlsbad 

A generation ago, internships were often code for coffee runs and paper pushing. But these days, interns are adding value in all sorts of ways. Beyond the work they do, internships offer previews into careers and are an integral part of shaping tomorrow’s talent base.

Framed in the right way, interns can provide immense value and be a resource for businesses. As one example, an intern from Cal State San Marcos recently implemented cell phone safety plans for each student at Sisu Academy. That included capturing and analyzing data to ensure students were responsibly using their internet access. It’s an impressive example — but follows a trend many businesses see.

That’s because North County is brimming with talent thanks to Cal State San Marcos, UC San Diego, Mira Costa Community College and Palomar College. No matter your industry or company size, I’m willing to bet there’s an ambitious intern nearby with a useful skill set, who is interested and ready to learn about your company and industry.

An internship can be a critical gut-check for young professionals who are trying to find their way. In fact, the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) recently found that 81 percent of surveyed college graduates shifted their career paths because of their internships. This bolsters the argument that internships are critical pathways for talent to find new industries and careers.

When businesses work with our local universities and colleges, they build valuable connections, as these institutions are economic engines and cultural hubs.

Especially in the midst of the pandemic, Gen Z interns are putting their tech-savviness to work, not missing a beat. And employers are getting up to speed, too. So much so that Harvard Business School even has handy guidelines for running a virtual internship.

If you’re still feeling hesitation, here are a few more perks to consider:

It can bolster community relations. When you work with our local universities and colleges, you’re building valuable connections. These institutions are economic engines and cultural hubs. Collaborating with them through internship programs gives you visibility into entirely new talent networks.

It’s also worth noting that many North County college graduates stay local. In fact, the San Diego North Economic Development Council (San Diego North EDC) recently reported that 85% of Cal State San Marcos graduates remain in our region. In that context, internships are a chance to build brand awareness among your future customers.

It can enhance your work culture. Most employees want to feel a sense of gratification through their work. For some, that’s baked into the mission. But for others, it’s not.

Mentoring an intern can provide an excellent opportunity for your employees to give back. It’s a chance to have a positive impact in a tangible, meaningful way

In that vein, it can also give your managers-in-training a chance to sharpen their leadership skills. By allowing them to supervise an intern, you’ll be helping them grow on the job.

It can unveil upcoming talent. Lastly and perhaps most obviously, working with interns can be a great way to find your future hires. One recent survey found that two thirds of interns reported they were hired on as staff, according to Vault.

But even if an internship doesn’t convert into a job, it’s a useful way to stay connected to the next generation of leaders in your industry and deepen connections with future talent.

No matter how you slice it, internships are valuable through and through. And North County business owners are especially fortunate to have a cluster of top-notch colleges nearby.

The next generation of leaders is right here, in our own backyard. I hope you find ways to open doors for them. Doing so will benefit your business and make us better as a region. Now that’s a win-win if I’ve ever heard it.