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July 19, 2017

How to Convince Employers to Embrace IT Internships

By Jeff Lareau 

GretchenConference400pxEmployers expect a lot from prospective entry-level IT employees, but the most coveted requirement is previous experience. If that sounds contradictory to you, you’re not alone. How do entry-level IT professionals get experience if the entry-level jobs are already requiring it? It’s an all-too-familiar chicken/egg scenario that is prevalent in today’s IT landscape. Many young aspiring IT pros are being discouraged from their dream career simply because they lack basic real-world exposure.


At the International Association of Workforce Professionals’ 104th Annual Educational Conference in Costa Mesa California, Gretchen Koch from Creating IT Futures spoke in depth about solving this persistent issue.


To illustrate that the problem is widespread, Koch went around the room inviting attendees to say where they’re from and talk about IT hiring issues they’ve faced in their geographic areas, and sure enough, similar frustrations can be found in Florida, North Carolina, California, Illinois, New York, Oregon, Montana, Georgia, and even Taiwan. The basic grievance is; “Employers won’t hire our clients because they lack work-based learning experience, but these same employers are unwilling to offer work-based learning programs."


Koch encouraged the room to take a step back to really understand the components of an internship and the reasons why employers might not fully embrace them. The four components of an internship are the project for the student to work on, the place for the student to work, the personnel who will supervise them, and the payment to the students for the work they do. The 4 Ps. (These components aren’t unique to IT and can be applied to internships in any industry.) The reason most employers shy away from internships is because they’re under the impression they must provide all four components. Most pushback on internships reinforces that point: 


“We can’t. We don’t have anyone to supervise the intern.”




“Our budget is locked and we can’t pay any interns right now.”




“We wouldn’t have any projects for an intern to work on.”




“We’d love an intern but we don’t have a place for them to work.”


Do these arguments sound familiar? They’re all legitimate reasons why an employer would shy away from hosting an internship, but what if a few of these companies worked together to provide one single internship? Suddenly, the doors aren’t closed so tight anymore. Most employers can provide at least one of these components, and they really do want to help. Why not pair a few of them together? This model makes it much easier to get employers on board, and it’s not just a theory. Koch has successfully used this model on various Creating IT Futures projects with companies like IBM and Cisco.


The IT industry is experiencing a pipeline problem for help desk and desktop support roles partly because employers are looking for people with previous hands-on experience. With creative solutions like the 4 Ps model for internships, this pipeline problem will finally begin to close. For more information on how the 4 Ps model of internships can be implemented, visit the 4 Ps info on our research page.