By Angie Gheesling

According to, an internship is defined as “any official or formal program to provide practical experience for beginners in an occupation or profession.” The key element of internship programs is that they integrate classroom knowledge with practical application and skills developed in a professional setting. The bonus for the student comes in participating in a low pressure experience where they can decide whether to pursue a career opportunity further. One of the greatest frustrations reported by those who struggle to find employment comes in the realization that the only open positions require work experience they have not yet had a chance to acquire.

As many as 80 percent of college students will change their major at one point during their undergraduate years. For many, the field that may initially appeal to them the most as they begin their college experience may not pan out to be all they expected as they learn more about it. This becomes a costly experience for both the student AND the parent. Participating in internships can be a great way to get a taste of the actual professional experience in a particular field before an individual commits themselves fully. Consider the experience for prospective nursing students who are required to participate in clinicals. They will tell you how invaluable the hands-on experience is when given an opportunity to put theory to practice. This kind of experiential learning is what internships are all about.

According to a recent survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, the starting annual salary for college graduates who completed a paid internship and were employed in a private, for-profit company was $53,521, while those who did not complete an internship started with an average of $38,572. The analysis also found that 72.2% percent of college graduates with internship experience received a job offer in contrast to only 36.5% for those who did not complete one.

At last week’s Robins Chamber Eggs and Issues event, the attendees heard from two of Houston County’s largest industries, Houston Healthcare and Robins Air Force Base. The focus of the program was on workforce and the takeaway from these top employers was the benefit of developing internship programs with high school students. Both of these employers had not participated in high school internship programs for many years. Both were able to testify to the successful experience of reinitiating this relationship with the Houston County College and Career Academy (HCCA.) The need to reach deeper into the workforce pipeline has become a necessity and fortunately this need has yielded both positive and lasting results.

In 2019, HCCA launched two Annual Summits: “More than Scrubs” and “Demystifying Aerospace Careers.” The high school attendees were identified through their You Science Aptitude Assessments. These assessments have served as an excellent tool for pairing student’s competencies with careers in which they can succeed and more importantly where they can find fulfillment. The success of these two summits led to internship opportunities with Houston Healthcare and the Robins Air Force Base 402nd Software Engineering Group.

The question arises: Why incorporate internship programs into your company?

– Employers can reap the benefit of a sneak preview without a hiring commitment.The goal is to build an experience that benefits both the student and the employer. The benefit may be found in the initial relationship, using the capabilities of talented individuals without having to commit to hiring. Companies find that job applicants put their best foot forward on paper; an internship helps an employer evaluate whether the person lives up to their professed skills when placed in the actual workplace. The rewards may also be found in the future, with the added ability to select a person who will complement the team as a permanent employee.

– Employers can expose the up-and-comers to their brand
Companies can use internships as a chance to introduce the up-and-coming generation of industry professionals to the unique aspects and offerings of their brand. Through the relationships built with school systems, employers can leverage these opportunities to inform educators on the current needs and in-demand skills found in the workforce.

– Employers can learn from students’ fresh perspectives
Employers find that many innovative ideas come from the interns who enter their first workplace with fresh eyes and enthusiasm. It is found that just as the student benefits from the mentoring and guidance of the employer, the employer discovers new perspectives, energy, and often, new skill sets through their interns who have been exposed to current trends.

Our economy is changing daily, and with it, the talents, skills, and experience needed to be a part of that growth cycle are too. The job market is a competitive one with companies all competing for the same workforce. There are lasting, long-term benefits to building an internship program at your company. If you want to get a jump on accessing your future workforce and are interested in learning more about this opportunity for your company, reach out to the Houston County College and Career Academy (Sabrina Phelps: or the Development Authority (Becky Lee: