How to Structure a Successful Internship Program

The most successful internship programs benefit both organizations and interns. The organization adds to its workforce while also helping students and new workers gain on-the-job training that helps them expand their networks and career opportunities. 

When each party gets something out of an internship program, it is a true success. 

If you want to create an internship program that leads to successful outcomes for both parties, follow these steps to structure an internship program that works for everyone involved. 

 

#1) Define internship parameters. 

Before you start accepting applications, outline what you want your internship program to look like. Create parameters for how the internship will be structured. 

  • What will interns work on and accomplish? 
  • What will interns learn on the job? 
  • Who will supervise the interns? 
  • How many interns will you hire?
  • How many hours will interns work? 
  • How long will the intern engagement last?
  • Will this be a one-time or ongoing program? 

Knowing the answer to these questions will make it easier to hire and train your interns as you will know what to look for and interns will know what is expected of them.

 

#2) Understand the legal guidelines of internships. 

Many organizations hear “intern” and think “unpaid help,” but that isn’t always accurate. Internships are regulated under the U.S. Department of Labor’s Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), and more often than not, interns are compensated for their work. Hiring internships doesn’t necessarily mean you get free labor.

To make sure you understand the rules and regulations of internship compensation, consider:  

  • Working with college internship programs that can guide you through the process.
  • Working with existing internship programs through career centers like CareerSource Central Florida
  • Contacting your legal department to ensure you are meeting legal standards and guidelines for internship compensation. 

For more tips on legally compensating interns, check out our guide Hiring Interns: What You Need to Know About Paid and Unpaid Help.

 

#3) Outline plans for the hiring process. 

Since you already outlined your internship program parameters, this next step will be easier. Use your guidelines to create a system for attracting, interviewing, and hiring interns. 

  • Create a detailed job description that outlines the responsibilities of the job (what type of work the intern will do) and the expectations of the position (such as hours, location, and compensation).
  • Create a list of places where you can post the job posting. Look for organizations and educational institutes that have internships programs, and find job boards that curate internship job listings.  
  • Design an internship application that helps you identify candidates who would be ideal for the job. Ask questions that help to gauge interest in what you will be teaching during the internship. 
  • Conduct in-person interviews on-site so both you and the intern can decide if the working relationship is right for both of you.

 

#4) Create an intern training program.

Interns are typically coming to an organization with little to no training, so be prepared to give them the tools they need. Create a training program to help interns succeed at your organization — and beyond. 

A successful internship program gives interns skills they can use later in their careers, so focus on creating a detailed training program that helps interns at the beginning and throughout their experience. 

  • Create an intern guidebook that outlines tasks, responsibilities, and procedures. 
  • Host an orientation to help interns get to know your industry and organization. 
  • Hold regular training sessions to further educate interns. 
  • Assign a mentor that can help interns on a one-on-one basis.  
  • Schedule regular check-ins to monitor success and improvements.
  • Also, train your team on how to work with interns so they know how to approach and manage this new type of worker.

 

#5) Conduct exit interviews. 

One of the primary benefits of having an internship program is that you can get feedback from someone who has seen the inner-workings of your organization. Interns experience your business while still remaining a less-biased third-party. They are not permanent employees so they may be open to sharing more authentic feedback than full-time staff. 

One of the primary benefits of having an internship program is that you can get feedback from someone who has seen the inner-workings of your organization. Interns experience your business while still remaining a less-biased third-party. They are not permanent employees so they may be open to sharing more authentic feedback than full-time staff.  

Learn from your interns and gain insights into your operations by conducting exit interviews. Ask for feedback about the pros and cons of their experience to gain insight you can learn from. 

Also, share feedback the other way. Give interns tips on how they can improve and progress, and also write them a recommendation letter so they can use their experience to further their career opportunities. 

 

 

Need Help Setting up a Successful Internship Program?

Adding an internship program to your organization benefits both parties. You get additional workforce support, can identify potential talent for future hires, and get a new perspective on your business operations. Interns get real-world experience that can help them accelerate their careers and find more success in their field. 

If you want to set up an internship program that serves both parties and is a success for organizations and interns alike, CareerSource Central Florida is here to help. Request your free consultation to see how we can help you set up an internship program, or learn more about our existing Summer Internship program