Internships can provide a great opportunity for students to obtain some actual work experience in their field of study. Companies also benefit from internship programs because it gives them an opportunity to evaluate these students for future employment with the company after they graduate. To make your company’s internship program a success consider the following:

  1. Find the right school.  When seeking interns, focus on colleges, universities, vocational and/or technical schools that offer studies relative to your industry. For example, a company specializing in electrical repairs will want to reach out to schools offering certificate or degreed programs focusing on training electricians.  This ensures a win-win for both the company and the student. The company is able to employ an individual who can perform tasks specific to the business and the student will have the opportunity to learn how to apply concept he or she has learned during his/her course of study.
  2. Select a mentor.  In order to make the internship successful, it’s important to pair the intern with someone in the organization who will help the intern learn how to perform the job properly.  The mentor may also be used to help the intern acclimate to your corporate culture and learn your work rules. Additionally, this mentor can help the company evaluate the intern’s suitability to be considered for future employment with the company.
  3. Paid or unpaid?  The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) looks very closely at the relationship between the intern and the company to determine whether or not the intern should be paid (see  http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs71.pdf).  In most cases, the intern will be performing productive work and should be paid at least minimum wage for all hours worked.  The DOL provides specific guidelines to help employers to determine whether or not the internship may be unpaid.  Specifically, an internship must meet all of the following criteria in order to be unpaid:
    1. The internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment;
    2. The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern;
    3. The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff;
    4. The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded;
    5. The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship; and
    6. The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.
  4. Conduct an exit interview.  Following up with the intern to learn what was successful about their internship with the company and which areas can be improved.

A little planning and coordination will result in a successful internship program that will benefit both the company and student.

Contributed by Christine Crews, SPHR, SHRM-SCP is Vice President of Human Resource Services for the Employers Association Forum, Inc. (EAF). EAF is a non-profit corporate membership-based association dedicated to serving the business and HR communities with world-class HR tools, hotlines & legal compliance, news & trends, surveys & economic data, benefits & insurance, risk management, training & consulting, and leadership & organizational development. HCCMO members receive discounted rates on all EAF classroom training at EAF’s training center in Longwood. Click here for currently scheduled programs: http://www.eafinc.org/online_store/training/HCCMO/training_programs.pdf.

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