Establishing an Effective Internship Program
Internship programs are mutually beneficial to an organization and a student. The needs of an organization are met through the valuable assistance of the student intern, and the intern gets the opportunity to gain real-life work experience that could help them land a job or begin a career.
All of the tips below can help you successfully develop and implement an internship program in your workplace.
An Internship Program Should Meet These Criteria
- Provide a valuable learning experience for the intern.
- Allow students to work a significant amount of time (10-40 hours/week), with the beginning and end dates clearly stated before the intern starts the position.
- Interns should have a substantial level of responsibility.
- The organization should have an on-site mentor for the intern (usually the supervisor).
- Interns should be encouraged to initiate projects, ask questions, absorb information, and provide feedback.
- The organization should have a clear written agreement with the intern about expectations, responsibilities, evaluation, resources, learning goals, supervision, and work schedule.
Use This Checklist to Establish a Successful Internship Program
- Conduct an Internal Audit
- Can you provide meaningful work assignments?
- Are you prepared and able to invest time in interns?
- Is a staff person available to supervise the interns?
- Can you provide financial support to the interns? (wages, stipends, travel and parking reimbursements)
- Do you have adequate office space and equipment for interns? (computer, telephone, desk)
- Develop a Description of the Internship
- Provide an accurate overview of the internship's responsibilities, work assignments, and time frame.
- Clearly outline expected outcomes.
- Select the Intern Supervisor
- Does this person have time to supervise?
- Is the potential supervisor committed to and capable of developing student interns?
- Post the Position on GoldPASS
- Review applications/resumes.
- Interview and select your new intern(s).
- Orient and Supervise the Interns
- Share the organization's mission statement and goals with interns. Provide them with a tour of the facilities and information on policies and procedures, formal and informal. Introduce interns to all staff with whom they will be working.
- Arrange for training, as necessary, with computer programs, telephone systems, copy and fax machines, or other equipment the interns will be using.
- Provide interns with information regarding appropriate work attire and behavior.
- Offer directions on the specifics of work assignments.
- Include the interns in staff meetings when appropriate. Assist interns in arranging informational interviews with colleagues in other departments or offices.
- Meet with interns on a regular basis to answer questions and to provide feedback.
- Seek and Provide Feedback
- Ask the supervisor to write recommendations for the interns if appropriate.
- Take interns to lunch on their last day. Discuss their experience with your organization.
- Assess your internship program. Make adjustments as necessary.
Other Internship Resources
- For for-profit employers: Internship Programs Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, U.S. Department of Labor
- Student Guide to Internships
- Best Practices for Internship Programs, National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE)
- Resources & Best Practices, Minnesota Association for Experiential Learning (MAFEL)
- Messiah College: Starting and Maintaining a Quality Internship Program