Student Retention and Engagement Through Small Business Internships
General description of the project
Historically underrepresented college students are vital to our economy yet express lack of accessibility to the real-world experience needed to navigate professional careers. On the other hand, small businesses have long expressed the need for workers with the fundamental skills to fuel growth, and often find difficulties accessing workforce pipelines. The Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Fellows program creates a win-win situation by connecting local small businesses and historically underrepresented college students through paid internship opportunities.
The program was piloted at LaGuardia Community College during the Fall 2021 semester. To date we have selected 138 students to participate as interns at 100 small businesses. The Goldman Sachs Foundation provided $720K in funding to support the 2-year pilot; $480K was allocated to stipends for the interns. We worked with the Business and Technology department and other academic departments, Accelerated Study in Associate Programs, Center for Career and Professional Development, and Career Technical Education Assistant Center to recruit students for the program. Students and small business owners applied and were selected to participate in the program. Over 200 businesses applied to join the program during the first cohort. Staffing included a Full-time Internship Manager, Part-time Director of Operations and Strategic Initiatives, and Part-time Alumni Manager. The team worked together to select, match and place students with the small businesses. Students, small business owners, and supervisors were onboarded to the program and given tools to ensure that both parties had a good and productive experience. The Internship Manager developed training material and advised the interns throughout their time in the program. The Director of Operations and Strategic Initiatives and the Alumni Manager interviewed, selected, and advised the small business owner alumni of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program.
Internship programs are instrumental to students’ professional development. Paid internships, specifically, have been found to be beneficial to the college in numerous ways. Paid internships strengthen ties to alumni and the community, benefits curriculum through feedback from employers, helps with retention and graduation rates, and strengthens the students’ relationship with the college. Even though about 40% of college students participate in internships, the National Association for Colleges and Employers (NACE) has found that Hispanic students are more likely than any other racial group to have had no internship experience by graduation. Approximately less than 6% of Hispanic students participate in internships while in college. As a Hispanic-Serving Institution and one of the largest educators of New York State’s Hispanic population, with over 8,000 Hispanic students from over 30 countries pursuing degrees, we are proud to share that about 40% of participants of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Fellows program at LaGuardia Community College identify as Hispanic.
According to the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Fellows Report, the program is supporting small businesses in reaching their business goals and investing in the professional growth of local talent. The early findings have been overwhelmingly positive and affirm the case for continued ways to connect small businesses and students to resources, new talent pipelines, and real-world experience. The report states that 87% of student participants stated that the internship was a meaningful work experience and 83% of student participants reported that they gained new skills and knowledge that would contribute to their future goals, including problem solving and critical thinking skills. 81% of business owner participants shared that the internship created value for their business.
Through this program we have learned the importance of collaborating with local businesses, college faculty, career services, and other college departments to bridge the gap between education and employment. By observing students in a real-world working environment, business owners can bring to our attention curriculum and professional development gaps. For example, despite the popularity of Social Media Marketing opportunities within small businesses, our students were not being taught social media marketing in the classrooms. To bridge the gap, we partnered with the Career and Professional Programs department at LaGuardia Community College to offer our Fellows student participants, matched with a social media marketing opportunity, a scholarship for their Digital Marketing course and 3 college credits upon completion. By partnering with Adult and Continuing Education programs, we were able to provide our students with free and relevant training to better equip them for their internships. Based on student and employer feedback we identified soft skill gaps, as well. To address these gaps, we developed a professional development training program for our students addressing the following topics: interviewing skills, communication skills, feedback mindset, time management, and personal branding.
With 55% of our internship opportunities being fully remote, 36% being hybrid, and only 8% being in person it is easy for students to feel disconnected from other participants of the program. The use of technology is vital for the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Fellows program to create a collaborative and cohesive environment for the student and small business owner participants.
By utilizing the project management and communication platform Basecamp, we can create a virtual environment that promotes knowledge retention, student engagement, and collaboration amongst students participating at different internship sites. Basecamp is an effective tool that markets itself as a “refreshingly simple” project management platform. Our students, regardless of their age and technological background, find Basecamp to be a user-friendly and intuitive tool. Basecamp is free for K-12 schools and universities and offers a discount for non-profit organizations. Students can access the platform on a computer, or they can download the Basecamp mobile application for free. Basecamp provides students with a free virtual environment to collaborate in.
An example of using Basecamp for knowledge retention is using it to share our microlearning curriculum. According to RPS Research, microlearning training increases long-term retention by up to 80% when used on its own or as a supplement following a training event. Microlearning provides knowledge, information, and training refreshers in small chunks. By applying microlearning to the digital world, we allow students to view it and complete it via their tablets, smartphones, or computers. Microlearning content can be easily adapted to highlight key messages and deliver the information at the most relevant time during the students’ internship experience.
After the first semester of the Fellows program, we learned that students did not know how or when to appropriately communicate their workload capacity to their supervisors. The ability to notify their supervisors about whether they had capacity to do more or were over capacity and unable to complete their assigned tasks became an indicator of student and business owner success and satisfaction. Our “Effective Communication: Communicating Capacity” microlearning was created on Loom, a free video messaging tool that allows us to record our camera, microphone, and desktop simultaneously, and shared via Basecamp. In under 3 minutes, the video walks students through the difference between being over capacity, under capacity, and at capacity with their workload. The quick session guides students through reflection and thought exercises that empower students to evaluate their current capacity status and develop a plan to communicate the status with their supervisors. This session is introduced to students during the third week of their internship, just as their school workload and internship workload is anticipated to pick up.
An example of using Basecamp for student engagement and collaboration is allowing students access to posting on the message board and commenting on each other’s posts. Students have used the message board to start a LinkedIn page sharing thread, share promotional events and opportunities from their internship sites, and to ask each other for tips and advice while navigating their internships. One of the Fellows student participants, working for a compliance services business, posted a message board asking other interns for ideas, tips, and advice on how to best work with the CRM platform HubSpot. The student was able to connect with three other interns from an event production company, an asset management business, and a financial management firm. Even though the students are participating in 4 different businesses from different industries, they were able to connect and share information regarding their use of the CRM platform.
Along with message board posts, students are also able to update the group calendar, chat in the Basecamp campfire (a group chat with all participating Fellows), and message one another individually.
Explain project results
Internship programs, specifically paid internships, are instrumental to students’ professional development. 40% of college students participate in internships, the National Association for Colleges and Employers (NACE) have found that Hispanic students are more likely than any other racial group to have had no internship experience by graduation. Approximately less than 6% of Hispanic students participate in internships while in college, meaning that 82% of Hispanic students are missing out on internship opportunities. As a Hispanic-Serving Institution and one of the largest educators of New York State’s Hispanic population, we are proud to share that about 40% of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Fellows program participants at LaGuardia Community College identify as Hispanic. Our Hispanic students are taking advantage of paid internships at a much higher rate than the national average, allowing them to benefit from the outcomes that paid internships typically have for college students including increased college retention, graduation rates, and employability after graduation.
Why it should be considered best practice?
The Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Fellows is considered best in class and practice as an innovative program and should be replicated because of its unique components. The project targets small business owner engagement, involves rigorous matching and curation to provide the best student-small business match, provides a comprehensive training curriculum for both students and business owners, offers a fair wage to interns, aligns Work-Based Learning elements, and provides students career engagement and exposure.
The project addresses some of the greatest challenges small businesses and students face in our communities. Due to their lack of resources to attract qualified candidates and create job-specific training, 2022 survey data shows that 97% of small business owners reported having difficulty hiring for open positions. At the same time, community college students are an untapped talent pipeline and natural talent pools for small businesses. By providing our students with the right resources and pathways we create a win-win situation in our communities.
One of the most important components of the project is our rigorous matching and curation. By collecting applications from students and small business owners, our team can pair students whose skills and interests directly align with the business’ needs. This individualized process leads to higher engagement and commitment from the participants. This approach also eases the burden on small business owners in identifying and selecting talent for their businesses, saving time and effort.
Throughout the 12-week internship, we provide small business owners and students with timely training, individualized coaching, and other resources to guide them through a successful internship. These include goal setting and performance management checklists, and peer learning and reflections opportunities. We also utilize bi-weekly check-in calls and regular feedback surveys to provide support and resources as challenges arise on either side.
To ensure greater diversity and equity within the program, the program offers interns with a fair wage. According to NACE’s 2019 Student Survey Report, paid internships are more likely to lead to post-graduation employment than unpaid internships. First-generation students were less likely to be paid as an intern compared to students whose parents went to college. About 50% of Fellows’ student participants at LaGuardia Community College are first generation college students.
Overall, the program is designed to incorporate elements of Work-Based Learning (WBL) to provide students with increased career opportunities. Career exposure through WBL allows students to contextualize their learning by applying it in the field and then taking that lived experience back into the classroom. Towards the conclusion of the internship, our team trains students on how to compellingly include their accomplishments and speak to the skills they built during the internship on their resumes, LinkedIn profiles, or employment interviews.
Highlights of your proposed presentation
Our presentation will highlight the following:
● An overview of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Fellows program and the
significance of connecting local small businesses in need of talent with underrepresented college
students in need of internships
● A discussion on the impact of paid internships on college retention, college graduation rates,
student engagement, alumni and community engagement, and student employment prospects
● A discussion of the demographics of participating students and the focus on Hispanic students
and first-generation students at LaGuardia Community College, a Hispanic Serving Institution
● Partnerships, fundraising, and other aspects related to the cost of the program
● The use of technology, such as the project management tool Basecamp (free tool for educational
institutions) to create an innovative virtual environment that fosters learning retention,
collaboration, and student engagement
● An overview of best practices and program impact on students and small businesses
● Testimonials from students and business owners
● An overview of lessons learned, such as addressing soft skill gaps with professional
development training and utilizing employer and student feedback to address curriculum gaps
with adult and continuing education courses
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2019 NACE Student Survey Report. (n.d.). https://www.naceweb.org/store/2019/2019-nace-student-survey-report-four-year-schools
A Model for Addressing Talent Needs in Small Businesses. (2022). Goldman Sachs. https://www.goldmansachs.com/citizenship/10000-small-businesses/US/news-and-program-information/pages/10ksb-fellows-report-f/report.pdf
GIURGIU, L. (2017). AN EVOLVING ELEARNING TREND.
“From Pandemic to Prosperity: Bipartisan Solutions to Support Today’s Small Businesses,” 10,000 Small Businesses Voices, Accessed May 3, 2022.
“The Business Case for Work-Based Learning,” Jobs for the Future, last modified March 16, 2020
MacDonald, T. (2022) What’s microlearning? LearnExperts. Available at: https://learnexperts.ai/blog/whats-microlearning/ (Accessed: November 17, 2022).
The Evaluation Committee will evaluate submitted proposals based on the following criteria. Each area will be rated on a scale from 1 to 7 (1= non-satisfactory; 7 =outstanding), for a maximum of 63 points.