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May 30, 2012

It’s the Season…for Summer Internships

Filed under: General HR Buzz3:05 pm

You may have had experienced one of these scenarios:

  • A college student contacts you and asks to volunteer as a student intern in your marketing department during his summer break.  He could help with some writing and administrative tasks and his price is definitely right.
  • A vocational school program places mechanics in training with businesses to get some “real world training.”   He would like to start as an intern to gain experience with your company.

These both sound like great opportunities to benefit both the employer and the intern, but there are many items to consider for a successful internship program.  With the economy in recovery, employers are recruiting again with internships being one of the recruiting tools coming out of hibernation.  In most cases, employers are looking to turn internships into more than simply summer jobs and also use the programs to build lasting employment relationships.

Some companies have built a great reputation of having successful internship programs, most likely because they have built their program after contemplating the following items:

  • What is the purpose of the internship program?
    • Perhaps your organization wants some “fresh ideas”, or maybe you want to create an increased awareness of your company at the university by recruiting college students.  Other companies may be recruiting internships to build a “bench” for future employment opportunities.  Whatever the reason, make sure it is clearly defined so you can build the program around the purpose.
  • What will be the duration of the internship program?
    • Some companies may be interested in summer internships while others may desire internships that continue throughout the year.  The answer to this question may depend on workload, cycles that occur during different times of the years, or special projects that are underway.
  • How will the selection process work?
    • Many companies make their internship programs as competitive as gaining full-time employment within the company.  In some cases, applicants will go through rigorous interview processes including submitting an essay along with college transcripts and a resume.  It is important to determine the factors you will use to screen applicants, and also who will be involved in that process.
  • Where does the internship fit into the organization?
    • It is critical to define how the internship fits into the company goals, and that a job description is created for this position.  The job description should be shared with the intern so they have a clear idea and understanding of their role and how it fits into the organization.
  • Who will “watch over” the intern?
    • A key to many successful programs is to assign a mentor to each intern who can answer questions and offer guidance.  Additionally, this mentor can provide supervision and direction throughout the internship, along with regular progress reports.
  • How will we assess our internship program?
    • An evaluation following the internship should be completed by the intern, the mentor, and faculty advisers (if applicable).  Ask interns to evaluate their experience and provide a written assessment, along with suggestions for improvements, to the employer.  The mentor and others working with the intern should provide feedback on their experience as well.

These are a few of the items to consider for a successful internship program.  Check with our blog next week to find out some of the legal considerations to keep in mind.

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