How to create an internship program that works

How to create an internship program that works

There are many ways to attract top talent with potential who can ultimately benefit your organization. One of those ways is to create an internship program. Designing an internship program helps job seekers obtain real-world experience and assists a company in developing a pipeline of high-quality potential hires. Keep reading to discover the benefits of introducing an internship program and how to create one for your organization.

What is an internship program?

An internship program usually consists of short-term roles that allow job seekers to gain real-world experience. Although these programs often attract fresh college graduates, they also help those undergoing career transitions. An internship program creates a pool of potential candidates a company can choose from when hiring for permanent positions. These programs are often role-specific, attracting talent with a degree or relevant experience in a particular area. Individuals often seek these placements to help jumpstart their careers and gain a footing in their respective industries.

How do internship programs help a company?

Aside from great opportunities for interns, these programs also offer a company many advantages. Here are some of the key benefits your organization can experience when creating an internship program:

Manage expenses

The bottom line is the focus for many companies, and internships can help improve that line by limiting expenses. Specifically, these programs can help reduce recruitment and training costs. Since your interns are already undertaking an onboarding and training program as a part of their internship, you don't have to put them through the full onboarding and training program if you opt to hire them as full-time employees. For example, if you train your interns to enter data into your company's project management system, you don't have to teach them again when you take them on as full-time employees — they already know how to use it.

Looking at human resources expenses — since you're developing a talent pipeline with the internship program — you don't have to invest as heavily in finding lukewarm leads in the recruitment process. When hiring, you can contact previous interns or convert one of your current interns to a full-time hire to fill the role.

Increase productivity

If your organization ebbs and flows from a slow to a peak season, having interns available to respond can ease the burden of the additional workload. This boost in productivity can also help to improve customer satisfaction.

For example, if you're a retail company, having interns on hand to assist with restocking makes the rest of your team available to complete sales or help customers. If your company is in the manufacturing sector, having interns conducting visual inspections and doing inventory for the company's raw materials frees up employees to support the production process — thus allowing the line to churn out more products. This swifter production line means products get to your customers faster, resulting in higher consumer satisfaction.

Enhance company visibility

Advertising the company's internship program in the job market and with local colleges or universities improves visibility. This can positively impact the company's reputation, as these programs help support the community and increase local jobs.

"Internship programs are a great way for companies to find high-quality candidates, enhance their employer brands, and support local communities."

How to start an internship program at your company

There are many ways to begin an internship program, with some being more successful than others. Knowing how to start this program effectively can help you achieve the desired outreach and increase the influx of interns. Here are some ways to help you set up an internship program with your organization:

Research state and federal laws

Understanding how your state requires companies to treat interns can help you create a program that clearly distinguishes your interns from employees. Additionally, federal and state laws assist in clarifying if the program can be paid or unpaid, as this requirement mostly depends on the type of employer. For example, if an organization is a for-profit company, the Wages and the Fair Labor Standards Act specifies that interns and students are entitled to the minimum wage and overtime pay.

Establish or find an internship program coordinator

Rather than tacking on internship program responsibilities to your existing team, hiring an internship program coordinator can help your company effectively manage its intern program. This can also prevent the extra work that accompanies creating this type of program from making its way into the rest of your team's workload. Internship program coordinators:

  • Review and approve internship applications
  • Prepare interns for their responsibilities
  • Define intern program goals and objectives
  • Resolve issues or concerns relating to interns and the intern program
  • Mentor new interns and provide guidance
  • Supervise interns as they complete their tasks

Set program goals and workload

Setting the program goals and workload before the first intern hire can make a difference in the program's effectiveness. Do you want the program to be your conversion tool to get full-time employees? Or is there another goal in mind? Providing new graduates with valuable work experience, easing the peak season workload, and helping build the company's employer brand are all potential goals you may have for the internship program. These goals create the structure and guidance that internship programs need and can drastically improve the program's quality.

Also, understanding what the interns will be doing during the program can help you attract the right intern talent and even help the internship program coordinator create comprehensive job descriptions for these temporary roles. This way, interns know what to expect from day one.

Create an application and hiring process

Even though many intern programs aim to gain the attention of new graduates who may not have real-world job experience, creating an application and hiring process can help you find the top talent your company wants. Rather than requiring a full resume and cover letter, asking for personal essays or letters of recommendation can help you sort through the candidates for the intern program and help your company find the right interns for the season.

Assign mentors to each intern

Mentors are a great way for people to gain new skills and insights into the industry, and ensuring that each intern gets a mentor can help them grow to their full potential. This doesn't mean you must pair every intern with a different mentor or pair them with upper management team members. Pairing them with junior (or even entry-level) employees helps interns gain the necessary skills for their first full-time role. Networking is also another thing interns can learn from these employees, setting them up for success early on in their careers.

Maintain the network

Even when an internship program has ended, your company can continue to build relationships with the interns. Maintaining connections after program completion can result in hot leads when you need to fill open roles within your company.

Internship programs are a great way for companies to find high-quality candidates, enhance their employer brands, and support local communities. Hiring an internship program coordinator, creating a hiring process, and establishing the program's goals are just a few methods to set up a company's internship program for success.

More tips on building an internship program

Need more guidance when it comes to hiring interns? Explore some hiring best practices to help your company find top intern talent.

Does your company have a peak season during the summer? Hiring summer interns may be the answer to help alleviate the heavy workload on your team.

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