Internships have become a common curricular element of parks, recreation and conservation programs that prepare young adults for entry-level positions within the field.
As such, professional practitioners are called to supervise these young adults, thus helping them to promote their professional and personal growth in ways that will support their transition from college to career.
The Student Conservation Association (SCA), the nation’s oldest and largest present-day conservation service corps, routinely places over a thousand young adults in parks, recreation and conservation internships each year.
Through the SCA Young Adult Internship Program, participants gain professional experience and skills while working for hosting parks and public land agencies.
The SCA internship program is dependent upon professional practitioners within these agencies who serve as supervisors for interns.
While a number of positive outcomes for young adults have been linked to the completion of internships like the one provided by the SCA, in order for benefits to be more fully realized, those who structure and supervise these early work experiences need to incorporate practices that target young adult professional and personal growth.
Accordingly, it can also be helpful if supervisors consider what strengths interns naturally bring to the internships and what areas might be in need of further development.
In an attempt to identify and explore pre-professionals’ strengths and weaknesses, supervisors’ final evaluations for over 2,000 interns participating in a Student Conservation Association Young Adult Internship Program during a two-year period were compiled and analyzed.
Evaluation results suggest that the vast majority of young adult SCA interns are a valuable asset for the hosting agencies as they typically have positive attitudes and high enthusiasm, a solid work ethic, and the ability to embrace teamwork required to complete assigned tasks and projects.
Although these findings are encouraging, when considering their interns as future professionals, supervisors also highlight their need to further advance a number of dispositional qualities, most notably self-efficacy, as well as certain transferable skills such as communication across various contexts and settings.
These findings suggest that to assist young adults as they transition from an academic to a work environment, supervisors who structure and support internships should intentionally implement practices that effectively target professional and personal maturation and key transferable skills.
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