Five key areas to focus on in your internship program

Internship program

It’s often said: What you invest in today will affect the world you live in tomorrow. Have you ever thought of your company’s talent in this light? What about interns or prospective employees; young people with little or no on-the-job experience but with plenty of potential?

Not only do these individuals deserve a fair chance to get a foot in the door and advance their career prospects, but your company might even reap the rewards of sowing into their professional development. One of the most effective ways you can do this is through an internship program.

What is an internship?

Internships normally take place over a fixed period of time and give college students or graduates the opportunity to work for a couple of hours or days per week, or full-time to gain practical work experience and to test out the waters in their chosen field.

What’s the benefit of introducing an internship program?

According to the 2019 Internship & Co-op Survey Report by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), the one-year retention rate for intern hires who have had internal experience is 71.4% whereas hires who haven’t participated in such a program have a one-year retention rate of 42.4%.

The stats show a similar contrast when looking at a longer time period. Intern hires with internal experience have a five-year retention rate of 43.9% compared to 27.8% for those with no such background.

In essence, if you’re wanting to foster a culture where people are the core of your business and retention is important to you (as it should be), developing and implementing an internship program is a great starting point.

How to build a successful internship program

1. Develop a culture of inclusion

Starting any new role can be daunting. For interns, who have quite likely not had any previous work experience, there’s a lot to learn and process. Making your interns feel welcome and a part of your company will no doubt ease the pressure and allow them to focus on the tasks they’ve been assigned rather than fretting about feeling accepted.

2. Create a buddy system

Adding to the previous point, a buddy system is an excellent way of ensuring that interns are able to quickly find the ropes. Ideally, your interns should be paired with employees who would also take on the role of a mentor; someone who will encourage professional growth and make the interns feel relaxed as they navigate their new environment.

3. Create a safe space for learning

To really make the most out of their experience and to grow their skill sets, interns should feel comfortable to ask questions. They also need to know whether they’re on the right track as they learn new skills. Receiving real-time feedback is an excellent way to ensure that they receive the input they need. Additionally, it’s important to nurture interns by showing appreciation for the work they do.

4. Give clear direction and sufficient work to keep interns busy

Managers should meet with interns at least once a week to ensure that the work assigned is being done correctly and that goals are being met; to allow the opportunity for guidance and to ensure that the work load is manageable. By the same token, it’s important to make sure that interns are receiving sufficient work to keep them busy and to keep the learning experience enriching.

5. Be sure that you’re following labor laws and guidelines

When it comes to deciding whether to pay interns or not, it’s not about preference. The Fair Labor Standards Act offers a seven-point test to establish whether your interns can in fact go unpaid. It’s important that any laws applicable to your company’s location are researched and adhered to. Ultimately, whether it’s legally required or not, paying your interns will more likely than not fuel their motivation.

Manage your intern program with ease

With our Work Allocation System, short-term projects are added to a central assignment system. People can find assignments that meet their career objectives and once tasks are complete, two-way real-time feedback can be collected. A dashboard allows you to keep track of which assignments are complete or outstanding, helping you effectively manage a successful intern program.

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