Internships: An Invaluable Resource During Tight Budgets

Michael A. Harper, FAICP worked over 32 years as a public sector planning manager. During that time, he used paid and unpaid interns extensively. Harper's article focuses on the many ways to effectively engage interns and use their talents.

Internships by university students, and even high school students, can be a valuable resource during healthy budgets. During tight budgets, as many public planning agencies and private consulting firms are experiencing, internships can prove to be invaluable.

How do you engage an intern? "The most common way of engaging interns I found was to approach a university planning degree program and offer an internship. I never lacked for interested students, even some from outside the immediate city and county in which I worked."

What should intern’s duties be? "Interns were never used by our program as ‘gofers’ or to supplement the clerical staff’s duties. Interns were never assigned responsibilities that were a full-time staff member’s responsibility."

What are the benefits for the department?  "Projects that needed attention, but for some reason (usually staffing levels) weren’t going to be completed in the desired timeframe for the program, could be completed using interns."

What are the benefits for the intern? "The internship provides a student with exposure to the operation of a department or firm; it gives them the ‘office’ experience that results in more quickly becoming a member of the planning team."

Full Story: The Western Planner


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