Creating a successful internship program can be a daunting task for many employers. The following steps offer an outline for creating, administering and evaluating the quality of your internship program:
Determine the needs of the organization
Researching the needs of your organization beforehand can save substantial time in making adjustments after you have already begun the internship program. Some thoughts to consider are:
- What are your current needs?
- What kind of projects/work assignments do you foresee interns undertaking?
- What is the minimum experience required to complete projects/work assignments?
- What is the best time of year to hire student interns?
- How long should your internship last?
- Do you have the work space available to support the desired number of interns?
- Is there a staff person to supervise the intern?
Obtain employee buy-in
The most successful internship programs are those that have obtained the buy-in of employees at all levels. Interns are most successful when they are seen as a welcome addition to the team.
Familiarize yourself with legalities surrounding student interns
Employers are encouraged to compensate interns through hourly wages, stipends and/or assistance with lodging expenses. Compensation varies from industry to industry. According to the U.S. Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), employers do not have to pay interns who qualify as trainees. The U.S. Department of Labor has outlined six criteria for determining trainee status and ensuring that unpaid internships are legal:
- Interns work under close supervision and do not displace regular employees.
- Interns are not guaranteed a job at the end of the internship.
- Interns understand they are not entitled to wages during the internship.
- Training takes precedent over any benefits employers may receive.
- Interns' training must primarily benefit them, not the organization.
- Interns must obtain hands-on experience similar to that in a vocational setting.
If interns will be expected to carry out functions that will take precedence over training opportunities, deciding to provide paid internships from the onset will avoid any potential legal concerns in the future.
Determine if you will offer university credit for internship
A key factor in developing an internship program is whether or not the employer would like to offer students an opportunity to earn college credits for completing an internship. This is a decision that must be agreed upon by the student and the employer, and ultimately approved by the university.
Please note that the academic departments determine what is required of all for-credit internships. The Career Services staff can assist you in obtaining department specific information.
Develop a compensation plan for students
After researching the legalities of unpaid vs. paid internships and determining whether the employer would like to offer students university credits for the completion of an internship, the employer should develop a compensation plan. Putting together documentation/brochures regarding the benefits of completing an internship will help facilitate the interviewing and hiring process for the employer and the students.
Create a position description
Intern employers are expected to provide work experiences that are both challenging and educational. Creating a position description will ensure that all parties involved have a clear understanding of the expectations of the intern. Many descriptions vary, depending on the employers. This following list provides general information of what a description should contain but is not all inclusive or definitive:
- A proper title
- A description of the organization and work environment
- A clear description of the position, general responsibilities, and learning objectives
- The necessary knowledge, skills and abilities needed to be successful in the position
- The minimum education and experience requirements
Create a work plan
Programs that do not have a structured plan from the beginning create opportunities for unclear expectations for the student and supervisor. This can lead to an internship experience that lacks quality for both the student and the organization. Some suggestions for maximizing the intern's success and creating a training plan are as follows:
- Assign projects that relate to the intern's area of study
- Provide sufficient and appropriate training
- Provide an orientation to the company and its culture
- Provide opportunities for interns to get involved with company activities
Interns should have a supervisor or mentor committed to the professional development of others. Determining day-to-day and week-to-week projects, work assignments, tasks and responsibilities prior to bringing your interns on board will also help your intern become successful in his or her new role. This may include a schedule and/or training plan that contain standing weekly appointments such as supervisory and feedback sessions, documented projects, professional development and training opportunities, etc.
Fill the position
Once parameters for the internship have been identified and agreed upon, you are now ready to begin recruiting for the position(s). All employment and internship opportunities for Clayton State University students and graduates are posted in Laker CareerZone. This is an online job search system that allows employers to post open positions. Posting Guidelines are as follows:
Posted positions are then reviewed and approved by the Office of Career Services. If the positions meet professional standards and internal policies, the positions are approved for student and graduate access. Companies or organizations requiring an employment-related fee from students or graduates are not eligible to post job or internship opportunities.
The Office of Career Services does not permit the use of work authorization, visa status or citizenship data in Laker CareerZone postings. This policy is in compliance with a Department of Justice determination. More information is available on the following sites:
- DOJ: http://www.justice.gov/crt/about/osc/htm/best_practices.php
- NACE: http://www.naceweb.org/s02022011/online_job_postings_campus_recruiting/
Once you have selected the appropriate candidates, you are now ready to schedule interviews. Once you have selected the interns based on their interviews and skills, you are ready to make the internship offer.
Execute the internship
Now that you have created a work plan and filled the position, you are ready to bring your intern on board and execute the plan. Students are eager to have an opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned in school and prove themselves. Upon arrival, employers are encouraged to:
- Provide the student with a tour of the facilities and information on policies and procedures, formal and informal
- Introduce the student to all staff
- Develop and review learning objectives
- Review behavior/performance expectations
- Discuss projected assignments
- Discuss training schedule (i.e., orientation, professional development sessions, etc.)
- Schedule times for supervision sessions (if not already scheduled)
- Provide opportunity for interns to discuss their expectations
Complete a performance evaluation
Career Services will email you an internship evaluation that must be completed in a timely manner at the end of the internship semester. This evaluation will provide input for the student's course grade. Completion of the evaluation is mandatory for all academic credit internships.