Employers do not typically recruit freshman and sophomore interns in New York City, Los Angeles – or anywhere else for that matter. Most hiring managers focus on upper level students who have already selected a major and have more education and life experience “under their belts”. For example, a recent Disney posting for interns in Los Angeles specifically restricted applicants to college juniors and seniors.
But a 2019 Yello Recruiting Study found that while hiring upperclassmen and women may have been the typical M.O. in previous decades, freshman and sophomore Generation Z job seekers are prime internship candidates because of an increased ambition and drive to make an impact.
Smart, Driven and Diverse
According to the Pew Research Center, Gen Zers, are on track to be the most racially and ethnically diverse and best-educated generation yet. The oldest Post-Millennials are enrolling in college at a significantly higher rate than Millennials were at a comparable age and are the first always-connected generation when it comes to technology.
Across the country there is a push, even in science, technology, engineering and math or STEM academies, to secure professional internships for younger – even high school – students. Lockheed Martin has had an internship program with Texas high schools since 2014 and several graduates have been hired into full-time positions.
Intern to Employee: The Strategic Pipeline
A recent Cassandra Report revealed 89 percent of Gen Zers used some of their free time to pursue creative and productive activities, working on skills like entrepreneurship, design, fundraising, videography or app building. Rather than sit around entertaining themselves, young Post-Millennials are investing free time in meaningful activities in hopes of feathering a future nest.
Gen Zers, with their desire to build meaningful relationships, are not only good for business, the Yello recruiting study found – HR managers who identify and target younger interns early can snag top talent before their competition. And the students they hire – even the ones they don’t – have the potential to be a source of referral candidates as well as informal advocates of the company to other students.
At an upcoming Seton Hall University Career Fair, Career Center Director Reesa Greenwald announced that while recruiters would be looking harder at higher level alumni, they also wanted to connect with freshmen and sophomores to start to build a talent pool for the future.
Attracting the Next Generation
So, what is this driven, dynamic, energetic generation of workers looking for in a job, a career, and life? Gen Zers want the full package – a more well-rounded work experience that includes interactions with senior leadership, social interaction, soft skills training and a way to contribute philanthropically to “the greater good”.
Courtney Freaney, a member of the Society for Human Resource Management and head of University Recruiting at Edwards Lifesciences, a medical device company in Irvine, California says competition for Gen Z talent is fierce. Companies like hers compete with the Facebooks and the Googles for STEM majors – those college students who are more likely to have the expertise in the exploding fields of artificial intelligence.
To get ahead of the curve, Freaney’s company offers internships to STEM majors after their freshman year, confident these interns will come back several times to build on different types of experiences. The hope is that they will become more committed to the company over time and accept full-time positions after graduation.
Incentives that are paying off for these companies include housing — either fully paid or subsidized 80 percent — and hiking hourly rates. In a 2018 Vault survey of more than 13,000 interns from 400 organizations, quality of life, compensation and benefits, career development, diversity and the prospect of full-time employment are key to finding, growing and keeping top talent.
Housing for Any-Age Interns …
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