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The Good Business Of Nesting Business Internships Within The College Degree

By Derek Newton
Reposted from Forbes, with permission

A college degree from a reputable public or non-profit school is the best and most reliable way to a quality career with a strong salary.

But there are ways to make the college experience stronger, at least in terms of job and professional preparation. One such way is with internships. Putting young learners and future workers with businesses and organizations that hire, empowering students, interns, or apprentices to learn by doing some of the actual work, works. We’ve known this for centuries, long before there were publicly accessible colleges. Putting an intern experience with a college degree is, there is credible reason to believe, better than either one alone.

Even though we know this, a productive integration of internships within the college degree program is not nearly universal. Last year, Gallup studied college internships and found that just 41% of undergraduate students complete an internship while in school. Worse, the rates are lower for first-generation college students (27%) and for those in public schools (36%).

A challenge in expanding internship options in college has been that colleges themselves are often ill-positioned to give the issue the attention it requires. Valuable as they can be, establishing viable and worthwhile career-related internships is not the core mission of any college – just as creating college internship programs is not the core mission of many standard private enterprises.

Fortunately, creative companies themselves have stepped forward to connect the dots – expanding career-specific experiences for students, helping colleges improve their outcomes, and growing a fitted talent pipeline for business. There is, the market says, progress and profit in pulling those things together. Podium Education a great example.

“Every undergraduate student, regardless of background or circumstance, should have the ability to gain real-world experience on their path to a degree,” said Chris Parrish, Co-Founder and President of Partnerships of Podium Education. “In concert with our university partners, we believe our platform will lead a new era in how college and career matchup for millions of students.”

Podium Education already has partnerships with more than 60 universities, including some big names such as Georgetown University and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. The company says thousands of students have completed their internship programs and that 86% of those said the experience enhanced the value of their college degree.

It’s also good business.

Podium recently announced the acquisition of Untapped, which was described as “an all-in-one early career software and talent marketplace for the world’s best employers to hire qualified and diverse intern and new grad talent at scale.” The announcement said the company works with business such as JPMorgan, DoorDash, and The Trade Desk “to source talent, host recruiting events, build employer brand, post jobs, review inbound applications and measure recruiting efficiency.” Podium says Untapped has had more than 300 corporate partners and that more than 2,000 recruiters are on the platform.

On the acquisition, Brooks Morgan, Co-Founder and CEO of Podium Education, said, “We want to ensure that all students can graduate from college with a direct path to a great career. Acquiring Untapped accelerates our ability to execute against that vision.” He said the new pathways and offerings are, “the bridge we have always wanted to build.”

Important to the success of these programs is that they are not textbook options or cookie cutter templates, they are designed in partnership with the companies on Podium. Students also often earn college credit for their internships as well as skill-specific credentials and certifications, the company said.

Growing in-college internship opportunities with real businesses and organizations is also a value to colleges, which can use the Podium programs and services for free.

“Offering real-world learning experiences for our students is core to our mission,” said Gretchen Neisler, Vice Provost for International Affairs at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. “The Podium platform provides scale and connection, bringing the global workplace directly into the classroom,” she said.

With a college degree already having outstanding value, adding clear career boosters such as industry internships will only make the academic credential stronger. The students who access it will be better prepared. Businesses and other enterprises add to their workforce training and acquisition pipelines. And the schools that offer opportunities such as integrated internships will be better positioned to weather the whims of public opinion, the economy, funding, or demographics. It’s a rare triple win, a trifecta. And it’s encouraging to see growth and expansion among the companies that a creating this kind of academic and career value.

Originally posted on Forbes February 13, 2024