Updated: Apr 30, 2021
We had the distinct pleasure of participating in a Business Consulting Case Competition at the University of Toronto Mississauga a few years back, where we observed some of the best and brightest. There were students from universities across southern Ontario. The students were given an Ivey case study and had to deliver a pitch on the business problem. The business problem was whether that particular business should move into the Chinese market. The students only had 2 hours to read the case, research online, put together a professional presentation and be prepared to deliver it. Impressed does not begin to state what we thought in seeing how well the students performed under pressure.
My business partner and I have been teaching over the last three years at several colleges in business or entrepreneur programs. Many were classes are post-graduate for college or university grads. We have found working with these students rewarding and find they are taking many of the courses that would benefit small businesses. We also tell them that looking at a small business for their first job out of school would benefit them versus a large company. Small businesses allow employees to learn more about the overall business and provide a more significant contribution.
Internships to Graduate
At the competition, between providing coaching and judging, we met many of the students. We talked with them about their plans when they graduate. Many of the students required internships in businesses. The students are left to find their internships, making it difficult for them to know where to look. Many want internships with smaller businesses as they have heard they would have the ability to gain more "hands-on" experience in several areas of the business.
In contrast, large businesses usually have defined postings for interns. Though small businesses are their desire, they find many small businesses are not interested in hiring students. They feel that students do not understand their business, and there is a cost. In many cases, the student cannot accept payment where the internship is required to graduate, so business owners misunderstand this in many cases.
Summer Internships for Experience
For students looking to gain experience while in school part-time or full-time in the summer in a business for pay, it is still worthwhile for small business owners to investigate hiring students in their business. At times, government programs in many of the provinces exist where if you employ people under 29, you could receive money for up to 50% of the salary you would pay them. There are programs at both the municipality and provincial levels. The programs change from time to time depending on what Party is in office, so make sure to check regularly to take advantage of programs that are available concerning hiring.
Misconception About Hiring Gen Z by Business Owners
There is a misconception by many small business owners today that "young people" cannot really help them in their business. Though the students may not have "hands-on" experience in a business, their education has prepared them with the knowledge to provide value in many cases. This is especially true of many business majors where they know best practices in accounting, finance, economics, marketing, human resources, and operations, which could greatly benefit a small business owner.
The generation who are graduating from universities and colleges today are the same group who are having the most challenging time finding jobs today behind those over fifty years old. This is why you see many graduates starting their businesses and why incubators are being started in post-secondary schools today. Businesses all want to be able to hire the best employees. Their performance in your business determines unpaid interns' marks, so there is even a greater incentive on their part to perform. If utilized correctly, the intern will be a good fit for your business. You would have a good chance to hire someone that has experience in your business that you have already trained.
The pandemic is adding to the problem for new graduates or those who are about to graduate. We have hired a few graduates or soon to be graduates over the years to perform some consulting tasks such a market research, cold calling, or basic analysis or consulting work. We have found their work to be exceptional. We recently hired a new graduate to perform some in-depth competitive research which turned out to be exemplary. We will use him again in the future when we have appropriate work for them to perform.
If you are a small business owner that needs some temporary help in your business, consider hiring an intern or a student who is looking for experience for your business. I have worked in businesses that have hired summer interns. They were amazed at the students' enthusiasm and the quality of the work.
Even an unpaid Intern should be treated as you would any employee. It is essential that before you hire any student, you understand the work you have available and the background and education of the student. They are there to learn and contribute, so make sure that you are utilizing them in your business, and it will be a win/win. Please do not use them to perform tasks that you could hire someone with an 8th-grade education to perform. The idea is for both parties to benefit. In larger businesses, intern and co-op programs are where many of them hire some of their best and brightest new hires.
Again, if you are going to hire an intern, make sure that you have defined work that needs to be accomplished for the internship length. An example: You might need help in developing your business processes, whether they be from an operational or a human resource perspective. A business student would be perfect for performing this type of work. Once you define the work and look at the skills required, the student's major will become clear. Ensure you understand that they are the same as any new employee. They will need to have some level of training, supervision, and guidance.
The same is true if you are hiring a new graduate. You need to make sure that you have a defined job description and role for them when they start. You can shape and guide this employee into an asset for your business instead of hiring someone who may have worked in many jobs prior. The latter may have many bad habits that are harder to correct than to teach someone from scratch.