future of the workforce

As someone who founded my company more than 27 years ago, and has seen it grow from one office in New York City into a nationwide, award-winning talent acquisition and workforce solutions firm, I now have the privilege to watch another, even more rewarding and important part of my life, blossom.

My son just graduated from high school and is on the cusp of beginning his college career. I reflect back to my life as I was entering college, and marvel at the discussions he and his friends are having about college and careers, about the world they will soon be entering, and about how different certain aspects of their college and work careers will be for them than it was for me.

What’s different?  While we know the world is everchanging, the workplace has evolved as well.  There are so many more opportunities for teenagers and young adults today as they navigate through their college careers:  Internship programs; mentoring programs; co-op programs; externship programs; and work/study programs.  When I was in college there were summer jobs! 

This abundance of opportunities offers young adults new ways to mature as workers between their late teens to early adulthood years.  Recent surveys by NACE (National Association of Colleges and Employers) reveal that there are many more opportunities for interns, with hiring projections increasing 22.6% for the 2021-2022 academic year. Further 51.8% of eligible interns converted to full time employees, according to NACE.

The prevalence of internship programs, in my opinion, is extremely important as internships supplement the university learning experience.  While students benefit from the university curriculums—both in-classroom and independent learning—the on-the-job training experience offered by internships is a great benefit to students and companies alike.  They also have the chance to work several internships during their college tenure, or diversify their experiences by working at different firms during their college years. In either case they gain invaluable experience that may even change the course of their lives.

Students earn the opportunity to learn precisely how businesses work, and also get the chance to make sure their chosen profession is truly what inspires them.  Businesses benefit, of course, from motivated new talent, new ideas, new and fresh ways of looking at things, and ultimately, from a talent pool rich with potential employees ready to enter the workforce, already familiar with their company, and with little or no onboarding necessary. 

Universities play an important role in the process, as they can enrich internship experiences by working directly with workforce solutions firms and ultimately creating even more robust programs.  A recent email I received said, “Our partnership with Atrium has maximized the effectiveness and quality of services delivered to our Intern Co-op Program hiring managers, student workers and candidates. We can count on the Atrium Team to be responsive, flexible and fun to work with.” As we continue to focus on helping to navigate and invest in the future workforce, it’s rewarding for me to receive endorsements such as this from our university partners.

What is the ideal internship program?  Over the past few years, the scope of internship programs has evolved, much like the workforce has. Similar to full-time positions, while many employers are offering hybrid internships (work from home and in the office), others are requiring exclusively in-person programs.  Both of these models can work well.  Our team has helped our partners design many types of programs, which have resulted in a diverse and expanded talent pool.  A recent article for Pharmaceutical Executive entitled Revamping Internship Programs for a Virtual World describes how the pharma industry adapted their programs since the start of the Pandemic.

As NACE reported, leadership is one of the characteristics employers look at when they hire summer interns. This is very inspiring news for me as I am a firm believer of mentoring programs that help develop future leaders.  One of the organizations my firm and I support, and where I serve as a Board member, is GirlTalk. This organization focuses on inspiring girls to become confident leaders through mentorship programs, ultimately building their confidence and better enabling them to succeed in internship programs in the future.

Yes, I sit back and look at my son and his friends.  I look at the girls whom we mentor at GirlTalk.  I look at the internship programs we have developed with our corporate partners. I look at the work we have done with our university partners, I look at the changes these students have adapted to during the past few years and I marvel at the future of work and the impact they will make.  I look at the future of the workforce. I like what I see. All is good.

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