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Short Term, Big Impact

The University of Scranton’s SBDC fosters micro-internship initiative

For any college student, the chance to intern with an established business helps him or her develop crucial skills necessary to survive in today’s world. But what is a student to do when he or she doesn’t have the time in an already packed semester to take on this valuable experience?

Enter the micro-internship.

The University of Scranton’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC), in partnership with The Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce, adapted micro-internships as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic. These short-term internships usually center around one project at a company and give students the chance to try out different roles before settling on their eventual career paths.

“For a decent amount of time, we’ve been offering traditional internships, which are a longer-term experience, for an hourly rate,” explained Patrick Keehan, a business consultant at the SBDC. “Once the pandemic hit, we saw that structure wasn’t as adaptable as we needed it to be because students were no longer able to physically visit the business locations and non-essential businesses had to close down for a time. Some businesses also did not want to deal with a longer-term experience, partly because they didn’t know what their own situations would be.”

The Chamber, in tandem with its Skills in Scranton affiliate through the Small Business Internship Fund, offers project-based micro-internships to eligible small business participants. These businesses can receive $250 in matching funds with a required employer match of $250 for a total of $500 per student, per project.

The small business participant is responsible for paying the intern as an independent contractor in accordance with IRS guidelines and participating Chamber member businesses are limited to no more than two funded internships within a full calendar year. Funds will be reimbursed to the small business at the full completion of the internship project.

“The Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce is committed to continuing the connection of our ‘best and brightest’ students with internship opportunities in Chamber member businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Amy Luyster, vice president. “Our micro-internship program allows for our members to connect with students on short-term, project-based opportunities that can be done remotely.”

For Valerie Cerra of Blakely-based Lesson aLIVE, offering a micro-internship gave her the chance to have necessary help with educational development and project management while getting to work with a talented local professional.

“I am a huge proponent of internship experiences for the value they provide to both the businesses and the student,” she said. “I was drawn to the simplicity of the micro-internship as it allowed us to incorporate valuable support without adding the overhead of payroll.”

“I immediately connected with the Lesson aLIVE micro-internship because I was so inspired and intrigued by the company’s mission to incorporate practicing professionals and real-world experiences into curriculum,” said Aleni Mackarey, who worked directly with Ms. Cerra. “As a student, I would have loved the opportunity to learn from people in the workforce who held positions that I could see myself pursuing.”

While a micro-internship may be somewhat less formal than a traditional internship, that shouldn’t deter students from applying and businesses from offering them, Mr. Keehan explained.

“Even though they are more task-oriented than a traditional internship, the micro-internships are still very beneficial for all,” he said. “We work with our businesses to make sure that the opportunities they offer are all applicable to the student so that they are taking something away from the experience. The micro-internships aren’t a mindless task, they pack a lot of experience into a short period of time.”

For more information, e-mail The University of Scranton Small Business Development Center.

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