It’s that time again, another school year is coming to a close, summer is almost here, and students across the country will soon begin their coveted summer internships. For the intern, these internships can be invaluable learning opportunities and are often required and necessary stepping stones for their degree and career paths. For an organization, an intern is an essential part of the team, filling in gaps and ensuring that a company grows with pre-assessed future employees. And finally for the educational institution, it forms relationships with employers for future internship and student placement opportunities.
Here’s some best practices I’ve found useful when building an internship program:
- Have a dedicated mentor for the intern to report to, and make sure they meet regularly to go over progress and answer questions.
- Paid internship versus unpaid? Though many universities recommend it, as well as the DOL depending on where they fall in the FLSA (https://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs71.htm), some companies just can’t afford it. What a company can provide is an educational and training environment for the intern to mature in their field of study, and a job opportunity after graduation. Just be sure your program is be in compliance with the DOL and to set expectations with your intern upfront. A gift card or monetary prize at completion of the program is something nice and more affordable as well.
- Assign them valuable work and learning opportunities, toss out the old stigma of running errands and grabbing coffee for the office. Make sure assigned work/training is monitored and evaluated. Also, having an intern shadow the mentor on a daily basis helps with the job expectations you set with them for the future.
- Make sure the intern meets your requirements for working at the company. This may seem obvious, but don’t invest time with an IT major who says they might want to try a sales internship. Match your internship program to the educational backgrounds you usually hire for.
- Partner with the university as well as the intern. Working with universities to attract talent is the best way I’ve seen an internship program mature. The university understands your requirements, industry, culture, and the types of future employees you look for, making it easier for you than having to post a paid job post somewhere and then weed through resumes.
The important thing to remember is that these interns are potential full time employees and representations of your company and future workforce. An internship program can help you build a valuable pipeline of future interns and employees that take your organization to the next level.