The value of interns is an interesting value.
In 1997 I graduated college. I had interned my senior year for President Clinton's Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Henry Cisneros (sounds a bit better than it was - I met him once. I actually worked for a special assistant. I did get to be part of a teleconference with Clinton once though - for those keeping track this was my second interaction with the former President).
After graduating from college with a degree in Political Science and American History and knowing I wanted to get into planning at a local level, I re-met former Dover Planning Director Steve Stancel. I asked him if I could intern for him. He said sure, if I didn't expect to get paid. This relationship lasted from June 1, 1997 until late that fall. Since then I moved up the ranks and through the organization.
Over the years, I have been able to interview and work my way through interns. Many times I have been scratching my head as to their value. In some cases you get what you pay for (free labor). Best intern ever has been my current one - Michele a MPA student at UNH. Worst was a middle aged woman who had gone back to school, and I ended up firing her (think that through [firing free labor]).
Overall, internships are tricky. You want to give the person a sample of the work, but also try to get some project or task completed. I know for myself what was valuable, or maybe invaluable, was seeing how local planning actually affects people and gives people a benefit in a tangible way. This differed from my time at HUD where politics were attached as a measure of value.
I try to take that memory of my time as an intern and make sure that Michele and others walk away from their time in the Planning office with a substantive knowledge and maybe a piece of work to add to their portfolio for a future resume.
Michele has been working on three tasks. The first is to document the procedures and tasks the department tackles. This SOP will be valuable as we look at and refine our approach to serving the public. The second is developing a workplan for projects. The idea here is that every time we are asked to take on a new project, staff will have a document to review the core reason for the project, evaluate resources needed and the opportunity costs of not attempting the project. This tool will allow us to manage our time better and not take on projects we can not complete 100%. In addition to these two tasks, Michele has volunteered to assist staff with the community trail project, and has done a great job.
Michele brings a professionalism, respect, desire to learn and intelligence that I am not sure the Department has had the luxury to have before, in an intern. As we begin the summer, and her time winds down I can't help but hope she wins the lottery and doesn't want to look for a paying job.
By the way, lest you think I am self serving. I am not the only intern to make a career out of the City of Dover. The City Manager began his time in Dover as an intern for the previous City Manager.