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Intern Programs

Developing a good internship program can sometimes be challenging especially if it is being created from the ground up. On the other hand, many organizations with well-established internships are looking for ways to get better results from their programs.

An internship is formal work experience that intentionally includes an educational component. The educational component may be required by both the undergraduate institution and the employer or just by the student's school or just by the employer. An internship may be paid or unpaid and for credit or not-for credit. Even in not-for-credit circumstances the student will have an academic adviser as part of the experience.

Why Internships?

Justifying any new program, and sometime maintaining a program, to management can be a challenge. There is a lot of research, both quantitative and qualitative, on the benefits of internships both to the hiring organization and the student. The links below provide specific information about benefits of internship and also will shed light on ways to set-up programs to maximize their benefits:

Internship Best Practices

Have a clear recruitment plan and define the critical skills needed and how they are to be evaluated in the recruitment process.

Develop a detailed program that fits specific needs.

  • Determine level of compensation
  • Create a workspace for the intern
  • Insure that there is clear supervision
  • Make sure that the program accounts for academic requirements if coordinated with a college or university.

Be specific about the intern's role within the organization.

  • Develop an orientation program for the intern(s).
  • Assign specific projects
  • Be clear on the intern's responsibility
  • Review pertinent polices and procedures that will affect the intern's work especially safety and any confidentiality polices

Develop a system of feedback for the intern (it could be patterned off of a formal performance review, or it could be informal).

More resources are available online:

Getting Started

Sometimes, the biggest obstacle to an internship program is the lack of clear planning. Here are some of the steps that will help to develop a clear program that will produce good results:

Take the time to determine what the local market and practices are for internship programs. In addition, research internships within your industry. Best practices in a geographic location versus within the industry may not always match. It is important to determine who you will be competing with for talent and designing a competitive program is important.

Make sure you evaluate organizational and departmental needs with regard to internships. Often employers want to hire an intern but what they really need is a part-time worker. If the organization and department are committed to creating an educational experience that contributes to professional growth of the student then an internship is appropriate.

Understanding the requirements for setting up an internship from a human resources standpoint is important. Recent guidelines issued by the US Department of Labor may affect whether or not you can classify an experience as an internship, especially if it is unpaid. Further guidance is available from the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

Speaking of compensation, we highly recommend that internships be paid. Research indicates that employers who pay, even minimum wage, are able to recruit better talent and get more productivity from their interns if they are paid.

Course Credit
Trinity University has specific guidelines for awarding of college credit for a work experience. Please discuss this with Career Services.

Like any position within an organization an internship requires administrative and even philosophical structure to support it and create an environment that is conducive to productivity and learning. Before implementing a program make sure that you have these structures in place.

We strongly recommend that organizations work from a written internship plan that identifies the student responsibilities, reporting lines, job qualifications, pay structure, work term and the customary structure attached to any employee's position.

To maximize the effectiveness of a program having a structured recruitment plan in place will help to assure that you secure the appropriate student intern for your organizational needs.