BY: Jessica Jones-Gorman. For students, the benefits of an internship are palpable: The summer labor provides invaluable experience at many high level corporations, often offers the prospect of future employment and serves as excellent bullet points on a resume. But the college accredited work has advantages for employers too, who benefit from the added vitality to their staff.
“There are a lot of benefits to hosting an internship program,” noted Linda Baran, president and CEO of the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce. “It gives you additional staff at a time when many employees take vacation and allows you to cultivate future employees. But I think one of the main advantages to hosting a college-age crew is the young, fresh perspective they often bring to a business — especially in terms of technology and social media.”
The Chamber, which maintains a workforce specialist to help with the placement of interns at local businesses, is just one of the many Staten Island organizations focused on helping students succeed. United Activities Unlimited, a community-based agency that provides educational, recreational, counseling and social programs for children and young adults, has been running the city-funded Ladders for Leaders program for the past three years.
“The New York City Department of Youth and Community Development created Ladders for Leaders over 10 years ago, and this year we have received around 1,000 applicants for the program,” noted Jon Baratta, director for program operations for UAU. “It’s a wonderful program that places hundreds of students in a number of different city agencies and local businesses. And there are a multitude of benefits for both students and participating business owners.”
Applicants must be between the ages of 16 and 22 to qualify and must actively attend school, prove residence in the five boroughs and have maintained at least a 3.0 GPA.
“Applicants attend 20 hours of training where they learn about resume writing, career exploration and entrepreneurship,” Baratta said. “About 150 to 200 students who excel during training are chosen and then placed with one of our partners.”
Students have worked in the city medical examiner’s office, Bank of America, Staten Island Ferry Ads and the SIEDC. Several real estate agencies and law firms also participate in the program.
“We have a pretty good balance of work sites in both Staten Island and Manhattan,” Baratta said. “In many instances students are able to segue their experience into a full-time career. And the businesses can pay the students directly or make a donation to the city for a tax write-off. We’ve found it to be a beneficial experience for both the students and business owners.”
The Hilton Garden Inn and Nicotra Group, which teams up with the Summer Youth Employment Program, agrees with that sentiment.
“We started partnering with SYEP last summer, but our company has hosted hundreds of interns on our corporate campus over the last decade,” noted Lois Nicotra. “The partnership with SYEP has been unique; in the past, our interns have generally hailed from college programs. Last year with SYEP, we welcomed younger interns and adjusted our program to be a full introduction into the working world — for many high school students, communicating in a work setting, writing a formal email and participating in a meeting are foreign. The SYEP program gives teens on Staten Island something to do, an opportunity to learn and a means to earn much-needed income.”
“We believe mentoring interns allows our Hilton Garden Inn and Nicotra Group Teams to serve the community in a meaningful way,” added Richard Nicotra. “It’s time consuming for our employees to stop and teach the different aspects of their role — and unlike training a new employee, the student may only be with us for eight or 10 weeks. We know that the time we take to guide a young person in crafting an email, building confidence participating at a meeting, understanding a real estate concept or creating a hospitality proposal will benefit them and it’s good for our community. Our internship program has been very fulfilling for our managers too; the students have each been grateful and many stay in touch with us.”
A statement from Samantha Molla, a 2017 summer intern for the Nicotra Group, echoes that theory.
“I’ve noticed that the way I present myself to people around me has improved drastically,” Molla wrote. “Whether it’s people in the office, at the Hilton, or even over the phone, I have learned how to better introduce myself and state any issues or concerns properly without fumbling or looking for the right words to say. I’ve learned that when you go beyond what is expected, your hard work is recognized and appreciated. At the end of the day, the time and effort I’ve put into my internship has paid off in more ways than one. “Working at The Nicotra Group has better prepared me for a level of responsibility I will have to take on with my career. It was an opportunity I wouldn’t trade for any other this summer.”