Study Shows Only 30% of RI Employers Host Interns

NEWS RELEASE Study Shows Only 30% of RI Employers Host Interns

Yet 91% believe an internship is beneficial on a job applicant’s resume

WARWICK, RI (March 31, 2014) –, a program of the RI Student Loan Authority (RISLA), the Governor’s Workforce Board, the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of RI, the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce, Rhode Island’s public colleges and universities, and the RI Partnership Project, released findings of an independent study that demonstrates the importance internships have on hiring decisions but a relative lack of participation among local employers.

The study, conducted by GreatBlue Research on behalf of, showed that only 30% of Rhode Island employers with more than three employees hosted interns. However, of that same group, 91% of employers felt that internships were either very or somewhat beneficial on a job applicant’s resume. The study shows that employers recognize the valuable role internships play in the preparation of the state’s workforce but many have yet to come forward to help increase the number of internship opportunities available to students and adults.

RISLA and its partners are aggressively working to develop new internship opportunities as a way to spur job creation and improve the state’s economy. This initiative is fueled by a $100,000 grant from the Rhode Island Foundation as part of the Make It Happen RI campaign.


“We believe many of the barriers employers cited in the study for not providing an internship can be overcome,” said Charles Kelley, Executive Director of Rhode Island Student Loan Authority. “This survey demonstrates there is an enormous opportunity for internship growth in Rhode Island.”

Common reasons cited as barriers keeping employers from hiring interns were they don’t need interns (19.3%), can’t afford to pay an intern (15.6%), and don’t have the time/resources to train or supervise an intern (11.3%). Additional barriers included difficulty finding the right talent, not knowing how to structure an internship, not knowing how to post a listing, or concern about legal issues regarding interns.

Three-fifths of business respondents (60.8%) noted that they were very likely or somewhat likely to offer an internship moving forward if the barrier they noted was able to be overcome. The Governor’s Workforce Board offers a Work Immersion program, which provides matching funds to employers offering paid internship opportunities, and can help remove the barrier of affordability. Meanwhile, offers help overcoming many of the employers’ other concerns.

“ offers employers a breadth of resources to help them with the development of an internship program, including in person seminars and downloadable guides that demonstrate how employers can attract the right talent,” Kelley said.

Of the respondents who did offer internships, the two most frequently reported reasons for hosting interns were ability to offer educational opportunities for interns (45.1%) and ability to offer workplace experience for interns (35.3%). 26.5% of respondents noted that the ability to recruit and evaluate potential future employees was also a motivator for offering internship opportunities.

“Internships are not just for college students.  Many RI businesses have found excellent employees by offering internships to unemployed workers,” said Rick Brooks, Executive Director of the Governor’s Workforce Board. “Internships give businesses the opportunity to try out prospective employees, while giving unemployed workers a chance to demonstrate their skills and motivation.” When asked, 61% of respondents indicated they would be willing to hire an unemployed adult if the right fit emerged.

“In addition to doing a good deed, it’s good business to hire interns,” stated Janet Raymond, Senior Vice President of Economic Development & Operations at the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce. “It can be a wonderful recruitment tool.”

70.5% of respondents noted that internships always, usually or sometimes result in part or full-time employment at the organization.

The campaign was launched to encourage work-based learning for students, youth, and adult learners throughout Rhode Island. The objective of the program is to increase the work readiness, knowledge, and skills of the current and emerging workforce in the state, while giving students and adults greater opportunities to remain in RI and contribute to the state’s economic growth.

However, the study showed employer awareness of is still low, with 87% of respondents noting they were not at all aware of the website. Similarly, 84% of respondents were unaware of the Governor’s Workforce Board Work Immersion program.

“We are hoping these results help make more employers aware of the tools available to help with internship programs, with the ultimate purpose of keeping talent in Rhode Island and growing local businesses,” said Neil Steinberg, President & CEO of RI Foundation.

About is a partnership of the Governor’s Workforce Board, the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of RI, the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce, Rhode Island’s public colleges and universities, and the RI Partnership Project.  To learn more about RISLA’s initiative, visit www.bRIdge.Jobs.

About GreatBlue Research

Formerly known as The Center for Research (CFR), the newly rebranded GreatBlue Research, Inc. is a national research organization with over 50 years combined industry experience.  GreatBlue has built a solid reputation for objectivity, accuracy, and responsiveness and is a member of the American Association of Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) and the Market Research Association (MRA). 

Q&A with 3 Rhode Island Employers using Interns

Jim Lavoie, CEO of Rite-Solutions, Robert Hughes, Plant Manager of Hayward Industries, and Bill Jones, President of Warren Rogers Associates, Inc. (WRA) give us their views on hosting interns.

Q. What is the main reason you host interns at your organization?

“To expose them to a different kind of company.” – Jim Lavoie

“Our business relies upon large scale multi-year agreements.  With a pool of trained interns, we are able to accommodate these upticks in business by turning to skilled interns who will soon be graduating and seeking full-time employment.” – Bill Jones

“To accomplish specific tasks in numerous areas of the facility.” – Robert Hughes

Q. What are the top three ways your organization benefits from interns?

“Allows our experienced employees to concentrate more on higher level objectives. Aides in getting tasks done quicker. Gives us different perspectives on how to solve problems.” – Robert Hughes

“To handle surges in business. To determine if WRA and an intern are a good fit for long term employment. To enable WRA to gain the advantage of the technical skills and understanding of the interns.” – Bill Jones

Q. What is the most challenging part of structuring an internship program?

“Long term interns create scheduling issues as their availability changes with each semester. Summer interns do not pose this issue.” – Robert Hughes

Q.  Have you had a favorite intern?

“We have had three exceptional interns from URI engineering that were well educated, highly motivated and quick learners.” – Robert Hughes

“Ye, two. Initiative [impressed up most] – They both got a Security + certification during their internship.” – Jim Lavoie

Q. Do you pay your interns? Why or why not?

“Yes from $16-$19 per hour depending on the year of schooling they are in.” – Robert Hughes

“Yes – To make them feel relevant to the company.” – Jim Lavoie

“WRA has always hosted interns who are paid because they have added value and revenue to the company.” – Bill Jones

Q. Who do you think benefits the most from interns?

“If done correctly, the intern benefits the most, but the organization has seen a benefit as well.” – Jim Lavoie

“The interns, as they get valuable experience in an actual work environment.” – Robert Hughes

Q. How did your internship program get started?

“Forecasting a demand for Information Assurance industry growth.” – Jim Lavoie

“In 2009, WRA undertook a large scale project for configuring and installing industrial computers at retail petroleum outlets.  We hosted interns to assist us with this surge deployment under tight deadlines and they enabled us to complete the project successfully.” – Bill Jones

“We started hiring summer interns from employees’ children.” – Robert Hughes

Q. How do you use internships as a recruiting tool?

“If we encounter a student that has the skill set we are looking for, we often host them as interns so that we can see how they perform and to gauge their level of interest in our company. We have four former interns on staff that are now full time employees. This week we began hosting an intern with notable analytical and SAS software skills under the auspices Rhode Island Work Immersion Program.” – Bill Jones

Discerning differences: interns, volunteers, apprentices & more

Working with interns offers benefits for both the business and the student. Students get to put their new skills to some practical use, and businesses have the opportunity to test out and train new talent. There are several different terms used for these workStudent Internsers, and there are some important distinctions between the different types of student workers.

Unpaid Positions

You will need to be very careful when designing an unpaid program to ensure you are complying with state and federal employment regulations. Even so, there are some serious benefits. While there is no expectation of employment, that does not mean that you cannot make offers to the most talented interns you bring in. In addition, a good program creates the image among the student body that your company is a desirable place to work. Perhaps the most important aspect is that it is understood by both parties whether the position will be paid or not.

Volunteers: This is the most restrictive category of worker. The Department of Labor requires that volunteers be engaged in work for charitable or humanitarian purposes for which they are not compensated. There are very few situations where businesses will make use of volunteers.

Unpaid Intern: This designation is still very restrictive, but will be far more common. Offering unpaid internships does not mean obtaining free labor. You may not benefit directly from unpaid interns, and they may not replace paid employees. While they will perform some tasks and operate company equipment, they must be treated like trainees instead of employees. Another difference is that while they may receive credit for their work, there is no expectation of employment when the internship is over.

Paid Positions

In the end, how you classify your paid student workers is not important. Once they are being paid at least minimum wage they are legally employees, and what you call them is simply a way to ensure that both parties understand the nature of their relationship.

Paid Intern: Once the student is being paid at least minimum wage for their time, you have more options. Paid internships are a balance of giving the student the training they need, while still gaining some benefits from their time. 

Apprentices: In the US, this function has been taken over by trade schools., but is still used in some trades. An apprentice works for a professional for a number of years in order to obtain the knowledge and experience and required to pursue that trade.

Student Employee: Many companies hire students to obtain inexpensive labor and to cultivate talent. The only difference is that internships often come with the possibility of school credit and may include more of a learning component.

For more information about designing the perfect internship program, download the Employer Guide to Structuring a Successful Internship Program.

Rhode Island’s College Internship Programs

One of the biggest gripes employers have is that there is not a large enough talent pool of people who are familiar with their industry and ready to work. Creating college internship programs for current college students and graduates offers employers an opportunity to train the future workforce. Rhode Island is home to some of the best colleges and universities in the nation. Employers should prepare to take advantage of this pool of resources by creating internship programs. You can start your inquiry into how to create internships by perusing through our list of partner schools in Rhode Island. 

Brown University is an Ivy League institution known for its competitive curriculum and successful graduates. Employers interested in working with Brown students and graduates go through the CareerLab.


Bryant University’s Amica Center for Career Education hosts students from liberal arts and business degree programs. This university is best known for being one of the nation’s top business specialty schools. 


Community College of Rhode Island is the largest community college system in New England. With many 2-year degree programs and 30 certificate programs, you are sure to find a great intern.


Johnson & Wales University has a long tradition of placing students in competitive, for-credit internships. Students tend to be highly motivated and ready to hit the ground running.


New England Institute of Technology offers associate, bachelor, and master degree programs in a number of technical programs. The Career Services Office serves as the initial point of contact for companies interested in setting up an internship. 


Providence College has been ranked as one of the top two regional universities in the north as listed in the U.S. News America’s Best Colleges for 9 years. This Catholic college offers bachelor degrees in 50 majors. 


Rhode Island College is one of the state’s oldest colleges and serves well over 9,100 students. The Career Development Center welcomes inquiries about establishing internships for current students. 


Rhode Island School of Design has an international reputation for being one of the best art and design schools in the country. The school enrolls bachelor and master degree students in the areas of fine art, architecture, design, jewelry making, etc. 


Roger Williams University offers both undergraduate and graduate education in the liberal arts. In addition, RWU is home to Rhode Island’s only law school. 


Salve Regina University is a Catholic institution that offers degrees from the associate through the doctorate. Potential interns major in liberal arts, sciences, pre-professional, and professional studies. 


University of Rhode Island has a system of 9 colleges that offer more than 80 undergraduate degree programs, 43 master degree programs, and 27 doctorate programs.



Partnering with a Rhode Island college or university to provide a viable pool of applicants for your internships will help you to prepare the job force of the future. Invest in your own company’s future by hiring an intern today. 

Want to get started working with one of the above colleges or universities? Download the Contact & Recruiting Guide from