By Nancy Cummings

As college students head back to school for the next term, many of them will have summer internships on their minds and on their task lists. Let’s hope they consider some of the small and independent businesses in our community as their focus.

Whether it’s writing press releases for a local boutique, coordinating project work for a financial planner or posting on facebook for a realtor, enterprising college students get a leg-up on the job market by acquiring real-world career skills that aren’t always taught in business school.

These college interns – most of whom have been raised with smart phones, soccer trophies, and innate social media skills – quickly learn that persistence, enthusiasm, and an intuition that we just call “business smarts” are the skills necessary in running a successful company.  And since small businesses account for 60-80% of all US jobs, these are also the traits that are running the national economy.

Small businesses, too, benefit from the ingenuity and breezy optimism that come into play with an intern.  Good college interns recognize the value of the opportunity and eagerly take on a challenge.  Their sense of fair play (acquired by all those years of organized sports) gives them terrific customer service skills.  And they amazingly approach all technology simply as a game to be mastered.

At the La Grange Business Association, we’ve benefitted from a string of enthusiastic and enterprising students who have embraced the opportunities that presented themselves.  Our interns have created videos, written press releases, sat in on live TV broadcasts, developed social media content, and coordinated retail sales promotions.  They’ve also handed out thousands of flyers, sat outside in sweltering tents, and hawked water bottles for sale.

So when you hear that small businesses are the engine of economic growth, remember, too, that they’re the engine of the future by providing concrete career skills to students today. And college interns are providing the needed skills to help small businesses realize their future, too.  We both learn a lot from each other.

Nancy Cummings is the executive director of the La Grange Business Association (LGBA). College sophomores and juniors interested in Summer internship opportunities with the LGBA and other La Grange businesses should contact [email protected]