How to Create a Green Internship Program

Eco Brooklyn is primarily a green contractor because we feel that route makes the largest impact on greening New York buildings, but a large part of our mission is outreach and education. A rigorous intern program is key to that goal.

Our intern program is very intimate and only a handful of interns take part at a time. This is so we ensure a deep and personal experience for each intern, something that is not easy and takes work on our part. At first we accepted all interns who applied but found that too many interns lead to a diluted experience for each individual.

With a smaller group Eco Brooklyn is able to give each intern better attention. The challenge for us as a company is to maximize the intern’s exposure to Eco Brooklyn’s daily green building activities while making sure the intern doesn’t become a distraction to our work. We also want to make sure the intern doesn’t get forgotten in some corner doing slave labor. That is not the point of having interns.

Ideally interns bring new energy to the company and allow us to see ourselves through fresh eyes, and if the intern leaves with a heightened understanding of New York green building then we have succeeded.

A student from Antioch University's Graduate MBA Program with a focus on Sustainability learns hands on the business of salvaging materials. Here we are salvaging roof decking that otherwise would have gone to the dump. We hope to use it in a childcare job we have coming up.

It is no easy feat to integrate a person with little or no green building experience without wasting finite resources looking after them. If you succeed then you add a valuable member to the team since everyone has something to offer. If you fail you have somebody sitting around bored and getting in our way.

We learned through trial and error what are effective tools to integrate interns but here is a great list of items to help any company succeed with their intern program. It is from Pace University, one of our intern sources.

Quick Tips for Employers on Creating a Valuable Internship Experience

Quality internships are an extremely effective way for organizations to test, train, and recruit potential full-time employees while, at
the same time, offering students an opportunity to learn and gain practical work experience. The Career Services Office at Pace
University appreciates employers who provide experiential educational opportunities for our students. Please review the tips below
to enhance the internship experience for both you and the intern.

Step 1: Orientation
 Provide the student with a detailed job description and thorough orientation to your department and organization
 Offer information on how the student fits into your organizational structure and introduce him/her to department
members to feel like part of your team
 Discuss and clarify expectations for the experience and set realistic goals
 Familiarize the student with the physical work environment including work space and fax/copier locations
 Treat the student similarly to the way you would any new employee, even allowing him/her to sit in on new employee
orientations to learn about company history and policies
 Emphasize the key personality features and skill sets you appreciate in your employees

Step 2: Supervision & Training
 Define tasks clearly and have a finite training period, taking the time to outline the way you like things to be done. At first,
have the student perform more complicated work under supervision. More structure in the beginning leads to more clarity
and independence later
 Identify a clear line to a specific supervisor and encourage the student to ask questions
 Allow the student to sit in on as many departmental meetings as possible so he/she feels involved and can observe. Allow
the student to shadow you and your team members when appropriate. This will help the student view their work in a larger
context
 Be accessible for assistance with problems, and encourage the student to come to you with difficult situations or concerns.
If possible, set up a weekly check-in meeting
 Increase tasks and responsibilities as the student’s knowledge grows, allowing for meaningful contributions. Provide
projects where progress can been seen by the student by the end of the internship. Before the student starts, have at least
one in mind
 Provide opportunities for the student to meet others in the organization, and see how different departments function
Discuss your field and share personal experiences, as well as offer to put the student in contact with others you feel could
help in a future job search

Step 3: Evaluation
 Let your student know when they are doing a good job, and when things could be improved constructively
 Speak to the student directly about any issues or problems, and contact Career Services for further discussion
 Complete the Co-op Evaluation form when received. Share the evaluation with your student in a formal meeting
 Make recommendations for further progress and opportunities for professional development
 If the student performed well, offer to act as a reference.

 

About the author: Gennaro Brooks-Church

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