There are no industry standards when it comes to internship programs. There is no board or certification to test your program for quality or any true form of oversight. This can be both a blessing and a curse for employers. Without this oversight, employers have a great amount of freedom to design programs, but it also makes it difficult to ensure quality internship programs across the board. Hosting valuable internship programs is essential for your company’s brand and recruitment practices. Here are the top 5 internship program must-haves to help you design an internship experience you can be proud of:
1. Professional Development
An internship is a curated learning experience in an office setting, and your intern should leave the program with important skills that will prepare them for success in their future career. An integral part of this preparation is professional development. An internship is not about getting cheap labor. Internships are a form of giving back and preparing the next generation of the workforce with tangible skill sets in their respective fields.
Valerie Terrell, the Vice President, Global Consulting Services at Workday, shares that, “Professional development is important because it cultivates an air of learning and progression. A company that values professional development enables interns to “grow up” in the company’s culture and complete the internship with experience ranging far beyond their projects. An intern will never forget their interaction with the CEO at the networking mixer, or the first time their mentor invited them out to lunch.” Positive internship experiences are beneficial for both the intern and the company.
2. Mentorship Program
In order to further encourage professional development, mentorship programs can be a valuable vehicle. Mentors can make your interns feel welcome in the office and serve as career advisors. Mentors are a valuable resource that already exist within your company. In fact, mentorships not only improve your internship program, but can also boost employee engagement!
Under Armor, one of the top internship programs, names its internship program the "summer league." Each intern is paired with a mentor and is granted access to learning seminars such as Q&As with executives.
Ability Jobs claims that mentorship programs or even informal mentoring opportunities can help improve and maintain employee satisfaction, productivity, and morale. Mentorship programs also help employees feel valued and supported by both co-workers and management. For more information on how to incorporate mentorship into your internship program, check out this Forbes article.
Many interns are experiencing office life for the first time. It is important to invest in training your interns and providing them with the tools they need to be successful in their current program and future jobs. In-house training for work skills and general skills shows your interns you are interested in their development. Training is also necessary for your interns to understand and be successful in the projects they are working on.
Just as any employee should be paid, interns should be compensated for the time and work they put into your company. Because there is an aforementioned lack of industry standards around internship programs, there is a lot of controversy around intern compensation. Regardless, it’s important to secure funding within your organization and make sure you have the budget for an intern’s salary. Suzanne Lucas, a global leader in the HR space, states that you shouldn’t shy away from having internship programs just because of the cost of paying interns. They are assets to your company.
Interns are paid anywhere from minimum wage to multiple thousands over the course of their internship program. L’Oreal (ranked #8 on Way Up’s top internship programs list), pays its interns around $20 an hour! While you may not afford to pay your intern $20/hour, you should carve out a portion of your budget for at least a stipend. This is especially important for leveling the playing field by creating opportunities for socioeconomically disadvantaged interns.
5. Social Events
Last, but definitely not least, it is important to make your internship program enjoyable! Social events are a fun method to get your interns more engaged with your organization. Company outings provide an opportunity for interns to network with each another and meet other key players in the company. Building relationships is a key component of the internship experience and hosting social events will definitely help.
Newell Brands, ranked a top 10 internship program by Way Up, incorporates fun into their internship program through golf outings and other team building activities such as bowling. Show interns that a career is more than work; it’s also about cultivating professional relationships and friendships with your fellow coworkers whom you see at least 40 hours a week.