Internships are a great way for companies to cultivate new talent and provide opportunities for potential recruitment. Internships can last anywhere from a week to a year. Most tend to be a few months, often over the summer, but longer internships can allow you to more fully assess an intern’s skills and potential long-term value to your organization.
Benefits of internships to employers:
- By evaluating how an intern performs in your workplace, you can assess whether that person would be a valuable permanent hire for your organization
- For the cost of providing training and supervision to interns, your organization can receive inexpensive labor and new perspectives
- Cultivating connections to your community through your internship program can strengthen your organization’s reputation
- An internship program with broad outreach can increase your organization’s diversity and inclusiveness
Benefits of internships to interns:
- Getting real-world experience in an industry or occupation more fully prepares them for their next education and career steps
- They may have access to experiences and leaders they may not have in a paid position
- Because they have an opportunity to show what they’re capable of in a workplace, interns may have an advantage applying for a position at that workplace
- They gain professional experience for their resume
- They get to establish networking contacts and potential ongoing mentor relationships
While internships can be paid or unpaid, be sure you’re familiar with the U.S. Department of Labor criteria used to determine whether an internship legally qualifies to be unpaid. This fact sheet from the U.S. Department of Wage and Hour Division helps clarify the rules. Also, if you work with interns under the age of 18, you need to be in compliance with child labor laws.
Clearly communicating the parameters for an internship will help your staff and interns have realistic expectations. Consult your legal counsel for detailed advice, but consider agreeing upon the following in writing before the internship begins:
- The intern’s work responsibilities
- What, if any, compensation will be offered for the internship position (pay, credit, other compensation?)
- The start and end dates of the internship, and the process for extending the internship if desired or necessary
- The intern’s supervisor and a schedule for ongoing check-ins if the intern and supervisor won’t be working together on a daily basis
- How the intern should raise concerns about harassment, exploitation or other issues
To find interns, check with local high schools, colleges and universities. Some offer internship credit. Some may allow you to recruit only for paid internships.