As we celebrate Internship Awareness Month, Workforce Southwest Washington (WSW) takes pride in providing internship opportunities to local businesses through two programs, SummerWorks (for high school-aged youth) and the Future Leaders Project (for college-aged young adults).
As part of the Future Leaders Project (FLP), an initiative of WSW, Columbia River Economic Development Council and WSUV, WSW added Mandipa Masike to the team as a paid intern in July 2021. Masike is a senior studying strategic communication and business administration at Washington State University Vancouver (WSUV).
The Future Leaders Project places students from historically underrepresented populations into paid summer internships, providing skills growth and professional development opportunities.
First-generation college students, individuals with disabilities, Black, Hispanic, Indigenous, Asian, other people of color, and LGBTQIA+ individuals build on their leadership and professional experience through networking with industry, business and regional leaders. Making these connections enables the students to build a professional network and develop the social capital necessary to advance in their careers.
During her internship with WSW, Masike focused on gaining student input on the Quality Jobs initiative and assisting with various outreach efforts. Masike worked with WSW’s business services team, learning about the Quality Jobs initiative which WSW launched with its partners in the Columbia-Willamette Workforce Collaborative.
The Quality Jobs initiative is a regional collaboration between workforce development boards, workers, employers, job seekers, community-based organizations, economic developers and local municipalities to define, support and promote quality jobs.
Working on the Quality Jobs initiative, Masike leveraged her relationships at WSUV to gain perspectives from a diverse student body by developing a set of timely focus group questions. The aim of these questions was to stimulate a deep conversation around defining quality jobs for college-aged people across Clark, Cowlitz and Wahkiakum counties. The goal was to gain insight from upcoming job seekers and the future workforce to get feedback on quality jobs during a distinct period of shifting and rethinking during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Masike chose to conduct two focus groups with student leaders to gain a broad view of the opinions of the student body. The first focus group was with Peer Mentors, student leaders who work with first-year students. The second focus group was conducted with Ambassadors, who work with incoming students, and interns, who helped give a perspective on students working in a business setting. In addition to the in-person focus groups, Masike created a digital survey distributed to the entire campus to gain diverse points of view to help define quality jobs for a college-aged population.
“The Quality Jobs initiative shifts the focus not only on what businesses are looking for and what businesses want,” Masike said, “but it’s also that realization that within a business, you have people that work for you: What do they want?” Masike emphasized that it’s important for businesses to consider the needs of their employees, especially in our current economic climate.
From her focus groups, Masike gathered valuable information on the preferences of incoming job seekers. Some of the key takeaways include a living wage that is enough to sustain and maintain individuals and a quality work-life balance with flexibility around in-office and remote work. Masike is compiling a report on her findings.
Interns bring value to businesses in a multitude of ways and bring new and exciting perspectives and experiences to their host companies. An intern represents a potential hire for the company and allows businesses to train and familiarize the prospective full-time employee with company processes. Having an intern can also give a company a viewpoint on the young, incoming workforce.
For WSW, Masike brought and gathered valuable perspectives and her work helped shape the quality jobs framework, rounding out the initiative to include our local young adults and the future workforce and leaders of Southwest Washington. The invaluable voice of future jobseekers will continue to affect the Quality Jobs initiative for years to come.
As businesses seek to find qualified talent, offering internships or participating in local internship and mentorship programs gives a direct connection to the emerging workforce. As Internship Awareness continues, consider how your company might benefit by hosting an intern and how your organization can help a budding professional reach their goals.
For businesses interested in learning more about the FLP and hosting interns, please contact Darcy Hoffman, Director of Business Services, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360.608.4949.