Getting an internship program in full motion can feel truly daunting initially and a bit like herding cats.
It’s hard to even know the first step to take on the journey to create an internship, let alone know when you’ve arrived at a program that you can be proud of.
Understanding Your Business’ Needs
Companies thrive when their employee engagement is high and when employees feel like they can exercise spontaneous creativity and that their voice is being heard.
An internship program actually serves and bolsters many of these intrinsic qualities to a thriving organization. You can infuse a fresh set of experiences, perspectives and learning backgrounds by taking on a few summer interns, and those same interns can eventually become full-time hires who combat employee turnover.
Your current employees are also more engaged when they’re proactively shaping the next generation of leaders, which is exactly what internship supervision and mentorship programs are designed to foster.
Below are a few steps that you can start following today to have a respectable internship program tomorrow.
Evaluate Your Current Position
It’s important that companies internally poll a few simple questions before jumping headfirst into an internship program. Questions like:
- What’s the optimal number of interns to take on given our company’s needs over the coming year?
- What kinds of projects am I going to be assigning interns?
- Are interns going to be paid? How will interns be compensated for their time at the company?
- Can my company afford to have an intern manager?
Those are all great questions to ask early and often since they’ll inform the kinds of things that you’ll be screening for when you take on interns as well as the resources that you’re willing to dedicate to an internship program at your company.
Plan for the Unexpected
You might have more demand during a certain quarter – or perhaps you’ll have a shortage of full-time employees capable of meeting the demand of your customers.
You need to plan for this in advance and consider taking on extra help from interns during these saturated demand periods.
It’s also good to achieve the right balance between getting the most out of your interns and, in turn, considering how the internship is going to shape your interns’ future development.
Create an Intern-centric Orientation
Once you know more of what you’re looking for, then try creating a handbook for interns that lays out a few ground rules and establishes expectations ahead of time.
You could even try supplementing that with a website that features a FAQ section on internships at your company and/or puts interns in contact with one-time interns who’ve already completed an internship with your business.
Ask the Tough Questions
Make sure that you understand the minimum wage, safety best practices and workers’ compensation laws in your state before embarking on an internship program. If you are planning to offer an unpaid internship, you should make sure you understand that your program will pass the Fair Labor Standards Act 6-point test for unpaid internships.
You might discover that either compensation in the form of income, college credit, or both is more of the norm in your industry.
Set Your Dates and Supervisors
Aside from laying down ground rules and establishing roles for interns and supervisors, creating a schedule around the interview and orientation processes can put you well on your way to an internship program worth bragging about.