The technological shift over just the last five years has been incredible.

For many businesses (particularly SMEs), there’s a big gap between their desire to keep pace, and their ability to do so.  One often-overlooked (but highly effective) strategy is tapping into the remarkable talents of the current generation of university students.

While increasingly popular, internships are still not considered mainstream in New Zealand – unlike in many other countries. I strongly believe that as a result, many Kiwi businesses are missing a huge opportunity to get an edge in today’s knowledge-based economy.

As I mentioned in my previous article, this generation of students is very different to the stereotype of those of years gone by. 

The students I work with are bright, curious and driven to look for new ways of doing things. For these people, using new technology is like breathing. They've never known anything else.  Cloud computing, Big Data, social media as marketing tool - while these concepts might require training and a change of mindset for more experienced staff members, this is bread-and-butter stuff to the next generation of employees.

Projects we might consider to be large, time-consuming and expensive are often seen as ‘business as usual’ by students. Designing a website sounds like a major project to me. For many students this is a simple and quick process - and it’s not just those who study IT-related disciplines who these skills. The same applies for working on large data sets or using cloud-based accounting programmes. It’s simply second nature to many of them.

And what these young people can bring to a business goes beyond just their ability to use the new technology. They’re up to speed with the latest thinking, and often look at things in a different way.

Engaging with this pool of talented young minds means you can:

  • Free up key staff to so they can spend more time focussing on your most valuable projects.
  • Freshen things up – interns bring enthusiasm, initiative, new skills and the latest thinking.
  • Take advantage of a fresh pair of eyes to discover if you're doing things just because 'that's the way it's always been done', or if there's perhaps a better way.
  • Develop a pipeline of potential permanent new graduate employees
  • Be flexible - students are often keen to work part-time alongside their studies or full-time over the summer. Some business I work with have a few students ‘on-call’, so as soon as the next project comes along the bring them back on board.

Of course, in addition to all these advantages for your business, you’re providing an opportunity for a student to kick-start their career. And by helping to develop the next generation of highly-skilled employees, you’re also playing your part in combating New Zealand’s looming skills shortage.

I‘ve been lucky enough to place interns into a wide variety of roles, from accounts assistants and data analysts, through to digital marketers and market validation researchers. When I speak to businesses after the internship has started, the initial reaction is usually one of surprise. They’re surprised by just how much value these young people have added to their business. They’re surprised by the level of knowledge they have, their professional maturity and their enthusiasm.

Next time you think about that project that’s been on the back burner for months, or your team is grappling with the latest technological advancements, consider hiring an intern. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

 

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