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How to Launch an Enriching Internship Program

CENTENNIAL, CO—Preparing for a successful career in hospitality takes education, but also hands-on work experience in order to secure a role in this fast-growing industry.

Within the leisure and hospitality sectors, employment continued to trend higher in January, up 31,000, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 2017, the industry added an average 22,000 jobs per month, for a total job gain of 263,000.

Carefully designed, internships can be beneficial to employers and students alike—but where to begin?

With more than 25 years in business, 2,200 associates and more than 50 hotel properties, Stonebridge Companies has implemented numerous student programs over the past few years. That experience has come with a few lessons learned and tips for how to make an internship valuable for everyone involved.

“As the son of immigrant parents, I grew up with little, and therefore, I always held the steadfast belief that Stonebridge would only grow as a company so long as we recruited a team of associates both dedicated to being respectful of their workplace and also committed to giving back to those in their community, which includes students,” said Stonebridge Companies President & CEO Navin Dimond. “As our company has grown, so has our ability to implement programs with schools around the country in order to give back to students who are eager to learn about the hospitality business.”

Dimond further explained that internships are critical because they give real, hands-on experience to students who are exploring their options and future career choices.

“For Stonebridge, it’s not about simply creating an internship or program—it is about thinking through every aspect of the people and the places that program will affect. It is always critical that we start with long-term, clearly defined objectives in order to create a long-lasting, synergistic relationship with the schools and within our own company,” said Dimond. “I’m proud to bear witness to the impact on the scholars and the continuous evolution of our programs over time. We have experienced learning curves—some larger than others—and are learning from both.”

In an interview with Hotel Business, Dimond breaks down what you need to know to create a successful internship program:

Do Your Research.

First, it’s important to know how a successful internship performs before launching one of your own.

“While there are differences in our hospitality programs at each school, it is important to make sure that an organization constantly reviews the goals and objectives at regular intervals within each school or program,” he said. “Constant communication is necessary to ensure that we understand student needs, course curriculums, and we align our ever-changing needs of business to ensure the partnership will be successful. It is a growing and evolving process. It takes commitment, dedicated resources, flexibility and constant follow-through. Without the deep commitment from all our company leaders, we would not be as successful as we have been thus far.”

Create Value.

To achieve mutual goals, a working relationship can’t be one-sided.

“In order to create value for both students and associates, we have to build an internship that benefits both parties and has synergy. Without proper input and support of the company team, a program can only make it so far,” he said. “The objective is to instill enthusiasm in your associates so they feel like they are truly part of a company that is helping others get ahead in their young careers.”

Be Goal-Oriented.

At Stonebridge, the leadership team is continually striving to reach the best outcome for internship participants.

“The ideal outcome is that the students and associates walk away feeling as though they accomplished something through the program or internship—and learned something previously unrecognized,” he said.

Review Case Studies.

In 2016, the firm instituted the Stonebridge-Morgantown Marriott at Waterfront Place Hospitality Scholarship with West Virginia University.

Stonebridge owns and operates the Marriott adjacent to the campus of the school. Once the university implemented a hospitality and tourism major in 2014, the team at Stonebridge saw an opportunity to create a scholarship.

“The endowment gave us an opportunity to reward some of the hardworking students at the university, regardless of whether they would work with Stonebridge in the future. Working alongside WVU, we established the scholarship with the intention that every student awarded the recognition would obtain the opportunity to work side by side with our own Stonebridge associates in order to learn the ropes of what their future career would look like once they had graduated,” he said.

“Working closely with the university, we were also able to institute many other different learning components for the scholarships, and today, the students’ experiences include classroom instruction taught by some of our own Stonebridge associates as well as on-site instruction at the Marriott,” he continued.

“Students also obtain the experience of working part-time at the Marriott, and the end result is a great experience for the scholars, our associates and our hotel guests,” Dimond said. “Our philosophy is that when you add various kinds of experiential learning and internship opportunities, you have graduates who can really make a difference in the industry, no matter where they land in the job market.”

Tap into Talent.

There’s a cycle of education at Stonebridge. Corporate associates are learning from students and, in turn, sharing what they know in the classroom with the next generation of hoteliers.

“In 2014, we implemented the Rita and Navin Dimond Fellows Program at Metropolitan State University in Denver. Our primary goal when establishing the fellowship was to provide the fellows with the opportunity to have a realistic, hands-on experience of what working in the hotel business is all about, including attending management meetings as well as experiencing front-line operations in every functional area of a hotel,” he said. “In turn, we’re happy to report that the unintended value is that some future hospitality leaders have joined Stonebridge, which has been a highly valued byproduct of the program.”

Tweak as Necessary.

Dimond note that as the program evolved, the team has been in a continual state of refinement.

“To accommodate the scholars, we have adjusted scheduling, compensation and content. Even more impressive has been the thoughtful perspective on our guest journey from the next generation of travelers and hotel guests,” he said.

Heed Wisdom.

With a few internship programs under his belt, Dimond recommends the following tips:

“They should consider the overall benefits of implementing a program for both the company and the students,” he said. “A company should contemplate the type of experience they can offer that will impact associates as well as give back to students, and there also needs to be a deliberate openness and awareness to listen to constructive feedback from the students in order to evolve the internships with your company.”