Post by: Angie Knowles, ECO Canada
Hiring a keen, motivated intern can be a win-win situation for both environmental employers and recent grads.
Employers benefit from a talented new staff member who is committed to learning as much as possible on the job. Young professionals benefit from an opportunity to gain invaluable hands-on experience.
Yet despite the numerous advantages of bringing an intern on board, many employers face the challenge of trying to fit this cost into a tight budget. For smaller organizations, this often means having to forgo an internship program altogether.
Thankfully, new wage subsidy programs are helping to change this situation. Federally funded programs like our job funding and employment programs offer up to $12,000 to eligible employers who hire young professionals for permanent, environment-related roles.
For organizations like Inside Education, a recognized employer of choice through such awards as Alberta Venture’s Best Workplace for Working Parents and Water Canada’s Next Leader in Collaboration, our wage subsidy program has helped them find and keep top young talent.
As Karin Hedetniemi, Director of Business and Human Resources at Inside Education, notes about the IEYC program, “It made it easier to say ‘yes’ and enable training opportunities for our intern.” She adds, “We could also offer a confident salary within a competitive labour market, and make an appropriate investment in this individual, who we aspired to develop and retain beyond the internship.”
Learn more about Inside Education’s IEYC success story, along with Karin’s top tips to help employers make the most of their next internship!
What motivated your company to participate in the IEYC wage subsidy program? What barriers did the wage subsidy help overcome?
The IEYC wage subsidy made such an immediate, positive difference in the early stages of the employment relationship. First and foremost, it made it easier to say ‘yes’ and enable training opportunities for our interns. It provided some wherewithal and support for short-distance travel, so our interns could attend learning events in person, and start to build their professional network.
We could also offer a confident salary within a competitive labour market, and make an appropriate investment in this individual, who we aspired to develop and retain beyond the internship.
Describe the position your intern was hired for. What did his or her role encompass?
Our intern was hired in a front-line educator role, to help students and teachers better understand the science, innovations, and societal issues related to the development of our natural resources. One of the ways we do this is by providing them with fun, curriculum-relevant, experiential learning opportunities, both in the classroom and outdoors in the natural world.
Our intern travelled all over Alberta, to both rural and urban communities, giving presentations and leading field studies on a variety of topics related to forests and land use, water and watersheds, energy and climate change.
How difficult was it to train and integrate your intern into this role?
What made your internship successful?
Any successful internship must start with identifying the right candidate from the very beginning, with the same thoughtful selection process you would apply to any important hiring decision.
Beyond any early education or career experiences they may have, it’s easy to recognize authentic passion for the environmental field! If you see that in your intern, you know it will be reflected in dedication and effort. The employer must be equally dedicated, patient, supportive and encouraging.
Is your intern currently working as a full-time employee in your organization?
Overall, what would you say are the main benefits to hiring an intern? What are the challenges?
We have always found our interns to be so open-minded to new experiences and practicing their skills. They have been receptive to feedback and eager to demonstrate they can learn from it and apply it immediately to the job at hand.
One of the challenges, of course, is a world full of opportunities and choices before them. So many organizations are looking for rising stars, and interns are often looking ahead to their next career move. However, we want to give them an opportunity to shine, even if it means exposing them to other partners and employers.
We want to help foster their professional networks and play a larger role in their community. The intern is ultimately the only one who can make a decision about their life. We work hard to make Inside Education a compelling choice! But we know the investment in the individual, their training and education, is never ever lost.
Would you recommend this program to other employers in your industry?
The staff at ECO Canada could not be more encouraging, helpful and ready to ‘make a match between your organization and young emerging environmentally-dedicated leaders. We have always appreciated the professionalism of both systems and people.
The automated reporting process is easy to incorporate and inspires a discipline to take the important time to reflect on your intern’s progress. And the EPt certification program is a great way for interns to develop and be recognized for their specific environmental competencies.
What advice would you give to employers who are planning to recruit a young professional?
I would definitely highlight the values held within your organization, and how their specific role contributes to a greater, overarching meaning or purpose. Young professionals want their personal values aligned in their work. They want to make a contribution right away. They also want to know you are walking the talk, and operating true to those values.
I would also remember to be open to questions; it is part of natural curiosity and process of inquiry. Interns are early in their career, still developing and broadening their perspective of experience and personal judgment. You can help them by having good documentation in place, with clear policies, an employee handbook or website, and other key information easily accessible.
You will learn as much, if not more, from your intern, as you hope to help them learn from you!