INTERNSHIPS / AUG. 22, 2014
version 3, draft 3

Management Guide: How to Find and Develop Interns

An internship is a method of on the job training for an individual interested in learning skills in “white collar” professional careers. Internships are similar to apprenticeships for trade and vocational jobs. However, interns can expect more standardization and oversight in their positions than apprentices can. Generally, interns are students currently enrolled in high school, college or university, or post graduate students. Internships are customarily temporary and can be paid or unpaid positions. (Source: Wikipedia) This article will address how management can find and develop interns.

Understanding the Role of an Intern

The main goal of an internship is for a student or recent graduate to gain valuable work experience in the industry that they’re interested in. An intern can test the waters in a real work environment to ascertain whether or not he or she would be a good fit for that career. There are many summer internships available or students can opt for a semester internship. As a manager, it is important that interns are provided with valuable work experience which can help students gain the skillsets they’ll need to obtain entry level jobs. One caveat to utilizing an intern in your office is that he should be treated well and not expected to do busy tasks all day long. Before you begin the process of recruitment, it is important to clearly define the terms of the internship and where this intern will fit into the organization.

Pros and Cons of Utilizing Interns in the Workplace

There are benefits as well as disadvantages to utilizing interns in the workplace. Management needs to weigh both the pros and cons and then decide whether or not working with an intern is the best option for your organization. The pros and cons are listed below.

Pros of Internships

  • Inexpensive Option – Interns work for little or no compensation
  • New Talent – Most interns want to work diligently and showcase their skillset
  • Efficiency – Office productivity will be increased without increasing your budget
  • Goodwill – Satisfaction in helping young professionals with career goals
  • New Energy – Most interns bring creativity and new energy to the workplace

Cons of Internships

  • Time Investment – Recruiting and developing interns takes time and effort
  • Energy Investment – Sometimes takes effort to keep interns motivated
  • Busy Work – Role definition can be challenging in trying to keep interns motivated
  • Bad Investment – Negative experiences could damage company’s reputation

How to Recruit Internships for the Workplace

Once management has decided to utilize interns in the office, then the process of recruitment begins. The following list shares some tips on how to recruit interns.

  • Educational System – Contacting the local colleges and universities is a reliable option. Many schools already have internship matching programs in place with their career development offices.
  • Internet – Posting advertisements on online job boards for internship positions is another option.
  • Trade Associations – If your company is a member of a trade association, provide the details for your available internship positions in order to get referrals for candidates.
  • Intern Recruiter – There are agencies who work with companies looking to be matched with interns.

How to Train an Intern for the Workplace

Anyone in management will find out that training an intern is a time-consuming process. One main reason that it takes more effort is because interns usually do not have any real-world work experience. However, many interns make up for their lack of experience with passion and eagerness to learn. There are five basic steps to take to train an intern.

1. Be Specific in Crafting a Job Description  

Interns should not be tasked with only doing busy work. It will benefit management and the intern to cultivate a professional environment that consists of training and skillset development. Provide a clear statement of the job description to the intern so that he will fully comprehend what is expected during the internship.

2. Clearly State the Compensation

Internships can be paid or unpaid and it would behoove management to ascertain the laws and expectations specific to their country. According to MindTools.com, many experts recommend that employers should pay their interns, even if the compensation is only minimal. Such compensation can motivate interns to perform better in the work environment and receive a higher sense of satisfaction when they do a good job. Research has shown that unpaid interns sometimes feel frustrated with internship experiences or that the employer is taking advantage of the situation.

3. Define the Terms of the Internship  

Generally speaking, internships last for a term of two to six months. It is important to clearly define the boundary lines as it pertains to the following—term length, expected behavior and office policies.

4. Create a Professional Internship Program

Since internships last only for a short time, it is important not to waste the time of management or the intern. Having a professional internship program already in place—with specific training goals—is the best way to make proper use of everyone’s time. Appoint a specific supervisor to work with each intern during the entire training program. Don’t place your expectations too high in the beginning and set an intern up for failure. Be prepared to tailor the plan as needed.

5. Understand Labor Laws

It is important for management to completely understand the labour laws for their country. For those in the US, UK or Canada, check out the labor law information on these sites US Dept. of Labor, UK Labour Law, Canadian Labour Program.

Finding and developing interns can be a simple process if management follows a specific plan which works best for their own organization. As described in this article, it is important for management to first understand the proper role of interns and what the benefits and disadvantages are. In training interns, it is vital to create a specific job description for each type of available internship and well as being clear in the compensation plan. Never be vague in establishing the length of the internship. Develop a professional training program and always know your labour laws.

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