By: Katherine Kiessling, Times Union
In response to the pandemic, inflation and an economy that may be inching toward recession, internship programs continue to face the chopping block across multiple industries. NPR canceled its 2023 summer internship program, Meta rescinded offers at its London offices citing company-wide budget cuts and others are scaling back.
BST & Co., the accounting, business advisory and management consulting firm based in Latham, is taking the opposite approach. It is bolstering its internship program.
To BST, investing in interns is an investment in the company’s future, with many of its interns continuing on with BST as full-time employees. It’s also an avenue for young women entering finance to see a women-friendly workplace in action.
The company has focused on improving its paid internship program in recent years, said Adam Lawrence, chief talent officer. The structure was more lax. Interns would come aboard randomly throughout the year, working in only a couple of departments. Now, BST has three internship cycles annually to align with the semesters and summer breaks of the surrounding colleges. Interns are placed in one of five departments across the company, which employs roughly 120. Currently, BST has nine interns for the spring session.
“Our internship program has absolutely been an evolution,” Lawrence said.
BST’s internship program revolves less around coffee runs and more around real-world experience, said Nia LaParl, an equity partner in the audit and accounting department, which takes on an average of six interns per year.
“We don’t bring them in just to have interns to say we have an internship program,” LaParl said. “We actually are sending them out to clients, they are working on our engagement teams, they are getting some real experience in the public accounting field.”
In accounting and auditing, 10 out of the 24 team members are former interns, LaParl said. That retention rate and the success former interns have at BST, several working their way up to leadership roles, is what motivated BST to grow its internship program, Lawrence said.
The internship gives BST a chance to get to know the interns and also gives interns an opportunity to see the inner workings of the company to see if the work culture is a fit. This approach has been particularly beneficial for women interning with the company.
BST’s staff is composed of close to 70 percent women, Lawrence said, many of whom are in leadership positions including LaParl. For young women finishing up school and looking for internships to start their careers, seeing that kind of gender parity in action is important for female interns, LaParl said
“It’s easy to say that you have a women-friendly workplace, and there’s a career path for you,” LaParl said. “But for them to see women in the partner and manager role, it really lets them see that there’s a good trajectory for them at BST. It definitely helps for them to get in and really see the inner workings and the culture at the firm.”
LaParl attributes the support she feels at BST to the work culture, particularly the scheduling flexibility that allowed her to raise kids and continue building her career. BST offered hybrid, remote work options that predated the pandemic, when working from home became a necessity. The demanding schedule in accounting can make it challenging for women who want to have kids to continue in the field if flexible, remote options aren’t given.
“That kind of developed out of us seeing that there was certainly a need for us to do that in order to retain women in the workforce,” she said. “By BST, offering those flexible programs, it allows women to succeed in this role.”
As seen in the Times Union - view here.