In this article, you’ll learn the benefits and challenges of running a company internship program, intern project ideas that will bring long-lasting benefits to your company, and strategies for facilitating intern engagement and ensuring quality work.
Company Internship Program Benefits
Internships provide a great opportunity for rising talent to gain real-world experience and learn new skills. For companies, they can be an effective way to find skilled labor while also providing guidance and mentorship to young professionals. Companies that offer successful internship programs reap many benefits, such as a steady influx of fresh ideas and perspectives. High quality internships can also help employers identify potential hires and foster meaningful relationships with the next generation of their workforce. By creating engaging opportunities for interns, companies can create a pipeline for motivated employees who understand their company’s mission and values. Investing in young professionals via internships is also a way to give back to the community, an act of social good that every business should partake in.
A company internship program is beneficial not only for employers but also interns themselves: they acquire valuable skills, build connections with industry leaders, gain access to exclusive job opportunities, and hone their professional development goals.
Challenges to Running a Successful Internship Program
Running an internship program can be both rewarding and challenging for a company. Internship programs provide organizations with the opportunity to train future employees, while also giving students valuable experience in the workplace. From legal considerations to employee morale, there are several challenges that companies must be aware of before launching their own internship program.
The first challenge comes from legal issues surrounding internships. Without the proper paperwork in place, companies can find themselves in hot water over unpaid interns or those who have been classified as employees instead of interns. Employers must be sure to clearly define what tasks interns will be doing and establish whether they should receive payment for their work or whether it is purely for educational purposes.
Another problem comes from how internships are managed within a company’s existing structure. It’s critical that you have a designated individual or team to oversee the company internship program and guide interns from start to finish.
Another big challenge to running a company internship program is finding ways to make it beneficial for both the company and intern. Companies need to ensure that interns get exposure to meaningful work assignments and training opportunities, while still providing value to the organization in terms of productivity or potential new ideas. Additionally, companies must establish clear expectations ahead of time regarding hours worked, pay rates, safety regulations and other policies so that interns feel supported throughout their time with the organization.
Keeping interns motivated throughout the duration of the internship can be difficult. Intern morale can quickly decline if they are not given task variety and the opportunity to engage with colleagues and fellow peers.
Key Steps for a Successful Company Internship Program
Here are key steps towards launching a company internship program that will be meaningful to both your interns and the company:
- Planning: Define Program Goals
- Recruitment: Reach the Right Candidates
- Selection: Screen for Success
- Training and Supervision: Quality Learning Yields Quality Work
- Evaluation and Feedback: Monitor Performance and Offer Guidance
- Compensation and Benefits: Reward Your Interns
Planning: Define Program Goals
A successful company internship program is one that meets both the needs of employers and the goals of participating interns. Planning ahead is crucial for any endeavor, so it’s important to set clear objectives for your program. Establishing clear goals can help provide direction and ensure that everyone involved knows what they are working towards.
First, you must decide if the program will be for recruitment purposes only. If it’s a recruitment-focused program, then your goal might be to find talented individuals who could become future employees. This may influence the types of projects and tasks your interns are given. Whether or not you’re seeking new hires, your program should always focus on providing interns with meaningful learning experiences during their time at the company. You should also take a clear stance on what your program will look like. Will you host interns for full-time, part-time, or short-term assignments? How long will they be with the company? How much of the company budget can be invested into the program? What types of projects will they participate in? Do you have a dedicated staff member to work with the interns?
If you are looking for interns who will be participating in your program for a long-term period of time, it may be wise to choose students who already have an idea of what they want to do.
Recruitment: Reach the Right Candidates
Recruitment is an important step when launching a company internship program. Without the right candidates, the program won’t be able to reach its full potential. Companies must make sure their recruitment efforts are targeted and effective to maximize their chances of success.
When recruiting for an internship program, companies should consider what makes them unique and how they can differentiate themselves from other companies in order to attract the best interns. This could include highlighting opportunities for career development or offering competitive compensation packages. Companies should tap into existing networks such as alumni associations, local universities or trade schools to find qualified applicants who may already have connections with your company or industry.
Additionally, using social media platforms like LinkedIn can help companies connect with more qualified candidates who may not have been aware of the opportunity before. Internships are a great way for companies to identify and hire top talent, but they can also be a valuable experience for students. Roughly 56% of interns land full-time job positions from completing an internship.
Selection: Screen for Success
Companies need to tailor the selection process in order to identify potential employees who are most suited for the position. When reviewing applications, you should already have in place what skills and qualifications each position requires. Define the role of your intern, so that candidates know what they will be expected to do and how it fits into the overall business strategy. This will make it easier for you to evaluate each candidate against their individual strengths and capabilities in relation to specific tasks.
Look out for individuals who have past experience (i.e. coursework, project, outreach experience) specific to your industry. Further, an intern’s attitude and behavior is just as important as their qualifications when it comes to making the most of an internship program. A good intern will possess certain traits that not only make them successful during their tenure, but also future employees for any organization.
The primary trait of a successful intern is initiative: they ask questions and seek out new responsibilities before being asked. Good interns are also able to follow instructions carefully while still having the drive and ambition to take on extra tasks with enthusiasm. Other qualities of a great intern include excellent communication skills, flexibility in working hours, attention to detail, collaborative spirit, strong work ethic and proactive problem-solving abilities.
Training & Supervision: Quality Learning Yields Quality Work
Running a successful company internship program is key to preparing your interns for their future career. Training and supervision are two important components of this process. With the right training and supervision, your interns gain valuable skills that will help them reach their future goals.
The first step in providing effective training and supervision is to identify learning objectives. Ask yourself what skills you want your interns to learn during their time with the company. Once you have identified the skills you would like them to develop, create a plan outlining specific weekly tasks and short/long-term projects that incorporate skill-building and offer meaningful learning lessons.
It’s also critical that whoever is overseeing the company internship program is practicing active leadership as this strongly influences intern motivation and effective learning.
Evaluation & Feedback: Monitor Performance and Offer Guidance
Monitoring the performance of your company’s interns is essential for running a successful internship program. Evaluating and providing feedback allows interns to identify their challenges and mistakes, improve their understanding, and strengthen their skills. When evaluating intern performance, it’s important to consider both the quality and quantity of work they are producing. Take time to review their work on a regular basis and provide constructive feedback that will help them learn from their mistakes and grow as professionals.
Be sure to create a positive environment where interns feel comfortable receiving honest evaluations about their progress and achievements. Schedule weekly one-on-one meetings with each intern so that you can discuss the status of their projects, how they feel about their work and the work environment, and if they need any additional support. Asking for input from your interns can help you better understand how they are experiencing their internship and make necessary adjustments if needed. It’s important that you open the lines of communication between yourself, your staff and your interns in order to create a productive learning atmosphere for all involved. Giving praise and perhaps an occasional incentive for excellent job performance can also motivate interns to continue working hard towards achieving company goals.
Evaluating intern performance also helps you identify any potential issues in how the internship is designed or how expectations/training is communicated. Regular evaluations allow you to identify and fix problems immediately rather than letting them prolong.
Compensation & Benefits: Reward Your Interns
Interns can be a great asset to many businesses, but it’s essential that they are fairly rewarded for their hard work and contribution. Compensating interns should not be seen as a job “perk”. Rather, it should be a standard practice of social responsibility for all companies. Research shows that 43% of internships at for-profit organizations are unpaid. A 2019 survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) showed that people from paid internships performed better at job fairs and received more job offers than those with unpaid internships or no internship experience.
In order to ensure success within a company internship program, employers should take the time to create a compensation and benefits package that rewards interns for their dedication, time and energy in contributing to the company. This is not only the ethical thing to do, but it helps foster an environment of respect and appreciation while providing meaningful feedback on their performance.
Sustainability Projects for Interns
If you’re looking for powerful ways to be both environmentally and socially responsible, then consider designing an internship program that will help you achieve your sustainability goals. Offering sustainability-focused projects will not only help you drive your company sustainability program, but it will teach young professionals about sustainable and ethical business practices, an area of expertise that continues to expand. Consider letting your interns work alongside your Green Team in coming up with fresh ideas around how to be more environmentally and socially conscious. Note: It’s important to recruit interns with prior education and experience in sustainability.
Here are some sustainability project ideas that your interns can take the reins on:
- Share company’s sustainability efforts in blog articles, video clips, newsletters, and across social media
- Calculate the company’s carbon and water footprints of each department, individual employees, products, processes, etc.
- Calculate the company’s waste generation and possible waste recycling
- Design an at-work recycling or composting program
- Generate list of green product alternatives (i.e. packaging) with costs to be added to the procurement policy
- Create a list of local outreach events and any associated costs
- Locate local vendors for the next corporate event
- Help build an at-work garden
- Calculate the cost savings of incorporating renewable energy onsite
Conclusion: A Company Internship Program Should Be a Meaningful Experience
The success of a company internship program is dependent on the efforts put into it. Following the right strategies can ensure that businesses maximize their return on investment and get the most out of their programs. Success with a company’s internship program comes down to thoughtful planning and execution. Companies should provide interns with meaningful work experiences, provide guidance, offer feedback, create career development opportunities, and emphasize inclusion and diversity. When implemented effectively, these strategies will help businesses get the most from their investments in internships while fostering loyalty from participants and providing access to skilled labor for future hiring needs.