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Creating a Successful Internship Program in 6 Easy Steps

Jeanette Maister April 12, 2018
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Internship programs are a way for companies and students to work together and help students develop skills, gain insight and prepare them for the future after graduation. They are also a great way for your employees to become mentors and take on a little more responsibility, as well as help students figure out what career path they may want to take after they move that tassel to the left on graduation day.

Wanting to revamp your #internship program? Starting from scratch? Build a successful program with @Oleeo_’s 6 step guide:Tweet This!

When it comes to achieving these various goals of an internship program, it takes planning and coordination. Take a look at these 6 steps to creating a successful program for your company and students:

1. Find the Need

College interns are a great way for companies to seek potential talent, get insight into future talent, receive extra help and give back to their community. As a business, you will want to first determine what department or team could use an intern and actually benefit them and be useful for the student as well. Start by asking team leaders or managers their ideas and opinions on whether or not they would be comfortable taking on a mentorship role and still successfully continue their work. Another way to determine how to place interns, rotational or one time, is with data-driven decision-making.

Did you know 1.5 million internships are filled in the United States each year? That number has only continued to increase as more companies take on internship programs.  

2. Determine Duration

WCN-75-college-student-Social-ImageThere isn’t a rule book out there stating how long an internship needs to be, or when you should officially start one, but the Department of Labor does state you cannot keep an intern as an intern, indefinitely. You will either need to hire them on as an employee or simply part ways at the end of the internship. Keep in mind, most companies find summer internships are more beneficial due to the fact that most students are out of school for 3 months and able to devote more time to tasks.

However, some students continue their schooling. Being flexible with interns is a great way to build relationships with these students so they may consider a permanent position with the company after graduation. Depending on what your company is seeking and in need of, apprenticeships could be a great alternative to internships as well. Apprentices earn while they learn, and most (90%) are gainfully employed by the conclusion of their apprenticeship.

3. Structure a Timeline of Tasks

The more prepared your team is for the program, the more successful your student (intern) will be. Layout a timeline of events and check-ins with the interns for the duration of their internship so you and your team can stay on track and progress through it seamlessly. This will also include rules and policies of how the program will run and what you will expect from the intern from day one so they are well aware and informed prior to starting. By using our Oleeo Program Management product you can run checklists on your interns to maximize their efforts.  

Creating a clear idea of what specific tasks and projects the interns will be completing will help increase the interest of students and also help your team stay on route. That being said, you will need to make sure these are reasonable tasks/projects that are realistic with the time frame the intern is given.

Did you know 75% of post-secondary students graduate with at least one internship?

4. Engage

Employee engagement is crucial, but so is engaging with your interns. Do not assume they know the ins and outs of your company and their specific role when starting. They will likely need more guidance and training than an experienced employee throughout their internship since it’s unlikely they have ever held a position in this particular field before. This is a time for the interns to develop their skills, gain real-world insight and get experience in the workforce.

Block out time with them every week or every other week to ask how they are doing and what they’ve learned. Talk about their goals and how their projects are coming along, this will benefit both the company and intern to make sure their goals are being met and the intern is truly learning from the program. An internship offers the chance to educate your student about the company culture, mission and vision and overall company moral.

If you can also have your intern rotate in and out of different departments throughout the entire program, they would have the opportunity to explore the entire company and its structure as a whole. This way they can engage with senior members of the company, their fellow interns and entry-level employees.

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5. Get Feedback

Toward the end of the program, sit down with the interns as well as a member from the team they’ve been working with, to go over their experience. Let them explain what they have learned and what could be improved. Simply ask for their input. To make it easier you can provide a list of questions to ask them beforehand so they can prepare.

From the mid-1980s to the mid-2000s, the share of college graduates participating in at least one internship rose from less than 10% to over 80%.

6. Sign Off

As the internship comes to a close this is a time for you, the team and your intern to reflect on the feedback, the experience and the final deciding factor of whether you would like to extend their time with the company, offer them a position after graduation or part ways. Keep the feedback in mind for the next intern and do consider implementing those changes.

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This is also a time where you are able to give them feedback, career advice or have them ask you any final questions. Feedback is one of the most important steps in an internship program and surprisingly enough, they are expecting it from you. While the experience has benefited them, they will still seek good or bad feedback from their mentor to help them for future jobs.

Need more insight on how you can recruit, interact with and manage your interns? Oleeo gives you the direction and tools you need to create a successful internship program. Book a demo today to learn more about our Oleeo Program Management product.