Wednesday, October 29, 2014

6 Essential Elements of Any Internship Program

Internships represent a burgeoning market. According to Internships.com, 67 percent of 2013 graduates completed at least one internship during college, and a separate study by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) found that approximately 90 percent of student interns said they’d accept an offer for a full-time job from their internship employer.
If you’re looking for enthusiastic, low-cost labor, internships can provide your small business with many benefits. After all, internships don’t just help you meet your immediate work needs, they can also help you test drive talent and assess potential future employees.
Internships are also great for your brand and demonstrate that you’re giving back to the community and its students.
If you’re serious about hiring interns, then it’s time to implement an internship program – one that ensures you attract the right talent for your needs, keeps them busy, drives development and covers all your legal bases.
Here are six essential tips for doing just that.

Paid or Unpaid Internships

Let’s start with the money.
If you’re serious about your internship program, then it’s a good idea to compensate your intern(s). What’s the going rate? Ask around and research current trends based on your expectations of the intern and their duties. As a guideline, the average hourly rate for bachelor’s degree level interns is $16.35. Remember that your state’s minimum wage requirement also applies to paid interns.
Unpaid internships are also an option, but the U.S. Department of Labor puts very firm limits on the work that can be performed in these situations. You can read more about these restrictions here. In a nutshell, here’s what you need to know about what an unpaid intern can and can’t do:
  • Unpaid interns can’t do any work that contributes to your business’ operations.This includes any tasks that help you run your business, like documenting inventory, filing papers, answering emails, etc.
  • Unpaid interns can shadow other employees and perform duties that don't have a business need. For example, a bakery may allow an apprentice/intern to decorate a tray of cookies that will not be sold to customers. Because the task was only a training exercise for the apprentice/intern and the bakery did not receive any benefit from that work, the bakery would not have to pay that student worker for that time.

Understand What You’re Getting Into

As you approach the process of hiring an intern, it’s important to understand how an internship is different than a full-time, part-time or even volunteer-based position.
Primarily, an internship is a learning experience for the intern. As such, the experience should complement the student’s field of study, be structured as a mentoring relationship (you’ll need to appoint a dedicated supervisor to assume this role) and has distinct learning goals throughout the course of the program. Keep these considerations in mind as you craft your program, which leads to our next point.

Define Your Needs

Certainly your student intern will have needs and goals, but as the hiring company, you’ll have some too. Take a look at your business and its needs and capabilities in light of how you can an intern can mutually benefit from your program:
  • How will you pay or otherwise compensate an intern?
  • How can an intern help you with your business goals?
  • Do you have enough work to support an intern? Think about short-term and long-term assignments.
  • Do you have enough work for multiple interns?
  • Is everyone bought into the idea (because they need to be)?
  • What’s the best time of year to hire an intern and for how long?
  • Who will supervise and mentor your intern? Can they carve out enough time to take on the task?
  • What ramp-up and ongoing training can you provide?
  • Do you have available office space and other resources?

Don’t Ignore Labor Laws

Spend some time familiarizing yourself with employment laws in your state. If you have legal counsel, talk to them as well. You want to make sure you and your intern are clear on worker’s compensation issues, workplace safety, harassment and discrimination laws, benefits, etc. Your legal counsel can also help you put together a contract of employment for your intern(s).

Put Together Your Program

Aside from compensation, it’s important to clearly define your program. This will not only help attract and nurture the right talent, but it’ll ensure that the program proves to be a success.
For example:
  • Outline what the learning objectives of the role will be. If you’re hiring a marketing intern, perhaps one of the key objectives will be providing the intern with a basic knowledge of email marketing best practices.
  • Then list out daily responsibilities. Remember, students are used to being given clear direction and a task list will also ensure you have all your needs covered.
  • Add in any short- or long-term projects or assignments that you need help with.
  • Finally, be clear on how you’ll evaluate performance.
Don’t forget the basics too – work hours, business ethics, code of conduct, new hire orientation. Everything you do for a regular new hire should also apply to an intern.

Recruiting

Once again, don’t skip the basics. Put together a formal job description and include the specifics about the role, responsibilities and learning opportunities.
In addition to posting the position on your website and usual recruitment channels, take advantage of specific intern-recruitment sites like Internships.comAfterCollege.com,CareerRookie.comYouth.jobs and MonsterYouthJobs.com. Each of these organizations also participates in the government’s Youth Jobs+ program, an initiative designed to bring together elected officials, local businesses, non-profit organizations and faith institutions to create pathways to employment for young Americans.
You can also reach out to your local college and/or school career service office or even your own alma mater. Many operate internship programs (in return for credits, but not always).
For more information, check out the many resources for employers on these sites:
  • Internships.com – Includes guides on recruiting, hiring, and running an internship program, as well as sample internship job descriptions.
  • AfterCollege.com – Includes information on promoting your internship program, getting more from on-campus recruiting events, and even scholarship sponsorships.

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