Berkshire Business Interns Learning From Real Experience
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Instead of taking the summer off, the Berkshire Business Interns are hard at work getting a glimpse of life after college.
Some of the 32 Berkshire Business Interns enjoyed some well-deserved respite Wednesday at Taconic Golf Club’s Fourth of July feast and took a small break from their 10-week summer internships.
"Learning how to follow the action is really important because there are clear expectations in college and achievable goals," Community Health Programs intern and North Adams native Morgan Michaels said.
"A big part of my job is finding the person that knows the answer to the question that no one else has time for. It is exhausting, and they don’t teach you that in school."
Lever Executive Director Jeffrey Thomas said this is a big part of the internships and he hopes the experience can give these 32 young adults a leg up when they enter the job market.
"First in foremost we want them to have a great work experience and a great learning experience, so they are more competitive when they go to apply for jobs," he said.
Thomas said Lever, a local nonprofit that supports entrepreneurship, has been hosting these summer internships for the past five years and after being approached by other Berkshire businesses, felt it was time to go countywide.
"We have done it, we know how to recruit them, we know how to create opportunities that are attractive to them and that they can get a lot out of," Thomas said. "So we thought we would share the wealth, so to speak, but also help some of the companies in the region out and get access to young talent and help in the area."
Thomas said they received 450 applications for the full-time, paid summer internships.
He added that the internships vary, and that the 32 college students or recent graduates are spread over 15 Berkshire business including Berkshire Bank, Cascade School Supplies, Vidmob, Saraswati Imports and Beck's Printing.
Michaels, who goes to Williams College, said her internship has allowed her to see a completely different side of healthcare.
"It was interesting to see how healthcare works financially and administratively," she said. "People think about healthcare and think doctor or nurse, but I don’t have a clinical background and I am not a pre-med student."
She said she spends a lot of time going to meetings and shadowing upper management.
"I shadow the CEO ... I follow her to local business meetings, CEO roundtables — stuff like that," she said. "I follow the chief medical officer to meetings at the hospital. Shadowing is a big part of my job. Going to meetings when senior management is too busy and taking notes."
She said she hopes the experience provides her with a good overview of health care.
"I want to get an idea of what I don't like in health care," she said. "I may find out finance bits or the handshaking is overwhelming. Maybe I prefer to be in a clinical setting."
Intern Jade Schnauber, a Pittsfield native who studies early childhood education and sociology at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts is interning with Lever and said she is learning a lot about a field fairly new to her.
"I have learned a lot about how businesses run, and I have never experienced this kind of field," she said. "I have also been learning how to apply more of the psychological theories that I have learned in my classes this past year for this program."
She said her major and her role at Lever strangely have integrated and she has been charged with creating curriculums for the interns.
"They kind of act as a test to see where they are in the business and see how their career readiness skills grow throughout the program," she said.
Schnauber said this new experience could be something she ends up wanting to move forward with.
"It can give me an idea on whether teaching is something I want to continue or maybe if I want to do something like this later in my life when I have less energy to be around kindergarteners," she said.
Intern Ellery Galvin, a recent Williams College graduate from Maryland, is interning with Valt — a password management application — and said her work has been satisfying and she appreciates the constant feedback.
"Valt is training me to manage myself instead of just trying to complete tasks," she said. "I am sort of let loose to do whatever I feel is important during the day then every day I get feedback."
Galvin, who studied physics in college, said she has carried over a similar methodology at Valt but unlike the classroom setting, she isn’t just solving problems.
"In a lot of ways, the work is not very different for me. My particular kind of work is very remote and independent," she said. "But there is more design of the problem set and the solution to that problem set and getting feedback on the quality and if the problems I designed are relevant."
Thomas said that not only do they hope to train some members of the future workforce, but the employers and show them how to better market themselves to attract younger employees.
"We actually had all the supervisors come to a training and talk to them about what we have learned about working with young people," Thomas said. "Every kid is different, but they like to work in coworking spaces and they are not into the office and the hierarchy of office sizes and all that stuff…I think we are hopeful we can help the competency of businesses to attract young people into their workforces."
Thomas said the third prong of Berkshire Business Interns is to maybe (just maybe) show the interns that there are jobs and things to do in Berkshire County.
"We want them to understand that this is a great place to live and work," he said. "Even if they don’t stay here and take jobs after they graduate they still have a professional network here that they can stay connected to and maybe in five or ten years they may come back here and raise a family."
This has resonated with some of the interns:
"I would like to live somewhere else for a while but the longer I stay the harder it is to leave," Michaels said. "When I was 16 I desperately wanted to leave. It is different at different ages."
"I have always thought about staying here … I have been working in classrooms here and have a lot of connections," Schnauber said. "I may want to venture out a little further away maybe Bennington or just outside because I have always been here."
"Yes, I plan to stay here. I am already employed, and I plan to be living here next year," Galvin said. "… I know people here and my friends and family are now here."
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