The chapter also sends weekly e-mail briefings prior to the externship, advising students to research the employers they will visit and to be ready with thoughtful questions such as:
- *What type of education and training prepared you for this career field?
- What types of skills are necessary for succeeding in this career?
- How did you know this was the right career for you? Did you consider any other careers?
- Can you describe a typical day at your job?
- What are some of the biggest challenges you face in your job?
- What is the most important advice you have for someone just starting out in this career?
- What types of summer jobs or internships should I seek out as I continue my education?
The students' questions have been profound, Guardia said.
"Senior leaders would look at each other and say, 'No one ever asked those questions before.' "
The advance work, he added, "has resulted in an enriched student experience when making higher-order connections with employers."
The Nuts and Bolts
The chapter underwrote about half of the pilot program, and the Mays Center for Experiential Learning and Community Engagement funded the other half of the $4,000, two-day event during spring break. The Mays Center also handled much of the logistics, including registration and bus transportation, and provided lunch, backpacks and Inscape T-shirts. Student cost was $10 per day.
The pilot, which focused on HR business acumen, was successful and caught the attention of the university's College of Business. The College of Business now partners with the chapter and the Mays Center and adapted the externship to a one-credit-hour course while continuing to make it available for a daily $10 fee to students who do not seek college credit. The chapter funds part of the externship with money generated from its HR Certification Study Course.
"Our chapter is one [that the College of Business] singles out as being one of the premier groups on campus," Guardia said. The chapter won a 2019-20 Superior Merit award from SHRM as well.
By opening the externship to business students in general, "we widened the lens on the experience itself" to students of other disciplines, said Guardia, who co-authored a case study about the program in the 2019 issue of the Journal of Human Resources Education.
Broadening the participation base, he said, "satisfies the whole purpose for everyone to see the business operations behind the scenes [and gives students] a chance to speak to senior officers of the organization, to get a look at what each organization believes, what they do best, and also talk about their future" and the kinds of projects they are working on.
The program has undergone other tweaks since its inception. Students said they wanted more time in each department and to engage in real work experiences, so the program now offers a visit to a different employer on each of the two days instead of devoting the first day to a welcome reception, lunch and panel discussion with the city's HR staff.
More tweaks are in store. While the 2020 externship tours of VIA Transit and CPS Energy, the city's utility company, occurred in March before the pandemic hit, preparations are underway to create a virtual experience in 2021.
"One of the hospital systems had already developed [virtual] tour content to take students through its trauma center, critical care, research" and other areas, Guardia said, "with the idea of introducing students to the work that's done and the people that do the work. It serves as a recruiting tool and gives the employer an opportunity to open its doors."
The externship also is a recruiting tool for the chapter and university. Four new members joined the chapter after participating in the pilot program.
In 2020, Evelyn Garcia of San Antonio joined the chapter and attended the Inscape tour of CPS Energy. In May 2021, she will receive her degree in business management with an HR concentration.
The experience taught her, she said, that "you definitely have to know all the departments that are within the organization" in order to serve the employer, along with "where your employees are at [and] what type of benefits are being offered."
Articles in this series:
Pandemic Forces Organizations to Get Creative in Prepping Young Employees for the Workplace, SHRM Online, September 2020
Employers Engage Interns with Zoom Lunch-and-Learns, Speed Mentoring, SHRM Online, October 2020
Externship Program Offers HR Students a Career Preview, SHRM Online, October 2020
Modern Apprenticeships Offer Young Adults On-the-Job Training with Pay, SHRM Online, October 2020