Developing an Internship Program
What is an Internship?
"An internship is a form of experiential learning that integrates knowledge and theory learned in the classroom with practical application and skills development in a professional setting. Internships give students the opportunity to gain valuable applied experience and make connections in professional fields they are considering for career paths; and give employers the opportunity to guide and evaluate talent." National Association of Colleges & Employers (NACE).
The following criteria should be considered when constructing an internship position:
Internships can occur during the fall, spring, or summer and range from a couple of months to over six months in duration. The average internship lasts about a semester (four months).
While some internships are full-time, most range from 10 - 30 hours per week.
Internships can be paid (preferably) or unpaid (typically non-profit settings), for credit or not for credit, or any combination of these.
» The U.S. Department of Labor's Fact Sheet #71: Internship Programs Under the Fair Labor Standards Act provides guidance regarding whether your interns should be paid the minimum wage.
Details about the number of hours worked, length of internship, rate of pay, and other specifics are typically negotiated between employers and potential interns. Internships for-credit may include input from a a faculty adviser
Normally, an intern does not receive employee or retirement benefits.
Benefits of an Internship
Employers who utilize internships are provided the opportunity to temporarily increase staff size and accomplish short-term projects at minimal costs. Interns bring a current knowledge base from their academic coursework and new perspectives to the work environment. Often, employers experience increased company awareness and an enhanced reputation on campus through word of mouth initiated by satisfied interns and faculty relationships. A positive internship experience can lead to a potential full-time hire that requires minimal training, is able to take on more immediate responsibility, and stays longer with the organization.
Developing an Internship
Developing an internship position will require some research and planning on your part to provide a well-rounded, positive, learning experience for the intern. Many internship positions are formed by identifying the following criteria:
Interns can be utilized to accomplish special projects such as creating promotional materials, conducting research, designing web pages and organizing special events and programs. The goals, deadlines, and outcomes for a project-focused internship should be identified so that everyone clearly understands their roles and responsibilities.
Some organizations routinely experience peak periods where additional staff are needed, or there is a continuous demand for staff due to limited budgets. Interns can help to alleviate some of these staffing concerns. For example, interns can be assigned to serve as public relations assistants, marketing associates or computer support staff. Since professional development should be the priority, it is inappropriate to assign an intern to a position that is strictly clerical in scope. While there are clerical duties associated with any position, these should not be the focus of the internship.
Once the internship duties have been identified, you should determine the time required to fulfill the duties of the internship. This includes the number of months and hours per week the intern will work.
Level of staff support
Although you and your supervisor may see the need for an intern in your organization, you must also gain the support of other staff members who may be working with and mentoring the intern during his or her stay.
Recruiting for an Internship
Once you have identified the scope of the internship and necessary resources, you will need to create a job description that explains the duties, skills, qualifications, pay (if applicable), and time commitments of the internship. The completed job description will be used to begin the recruiting process. Career Services can assist you with your hiring efforts through our recruiting services.
Evaluating an Intern
Creating performance feedback tools are just as important as the development, implementation and recruitment of interns. The evaluation process can consist of both quantitative and qualitative measurements and can take the form of pre- and post-internship surveys and exit interviews. Please see the Sample Performance Feedback Form.