Alex Lopez
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Alex Lopez on May 22, 2014

4 Steps for Developing an Internship Program

An internship program is a form of job training that’s popular among white collar careers and is an effective way to streamline an individual’s integration into a profession. According to U.S. Legal, “internships are arrangements in which college students and career changers lend their talents to companies in return for an opportunity to develop business skills, learn about a new industry, and gain exposure to the work environment.”

This type of program is something that can be beneficial for both your business and interns. It’s a win-win situation because you get extra talent to assist with projects, and interns gain valuable work experience to better prepare them for entering their chosen field. Here are four steps to follow when developing an internship program.


1) Determine Business Needs an Internship Can Address

Every company will have its own specific needs, so it’s important to understand exactly what you’re trying to accomplish by obtaining interns. You will want to identify the tasks they will be responsible for, whether you will need them short-term or long-term, how many hours they will work on average per week, etc. If you experience seasonal spikes where you do more business during a certain part of the year, you will want to decide which part of the season you will need assistance.


2) Consider Resources

Depending upon the complexity of an intern’s tasks, you may need to provide some training to fully capitalize on their talents. That’s why you will need to determine who will handle this process and how extensive it will be. In many cases, some quick, initial training with minimal supervision will suffice. Other times, you may be required to provide ongoing training with heavy supervision. You will also need to consider office space and ensure that you have enough room for an intern to operate.


3) Paid or Unpaid Internship

If you’re looking to attract top-tier talent, it’s ideal to compensate your interns. According to the Internship & Co-op Survey from the National Association of Colleges and Employers, “the average salary for bachelor’s degree interns was $16.21 per hour in 2013.” Depending upon the financial position of your business, this may be feasible or may be out of your price range. If it’s the latter, unpaid internships are a legal option, but come with certain limitations. For instance, interns can’t take over the role of your regular employees and they can’t perform tasks that contribute to your business’s operations.


4) Comply with Labor Laws

Just like with normal employees, there are certain labor laws in place that are designed to protect the rights of interns. Making sure that you comply with these laws is crucial for keeping your interns safe and healthy and preventing any type of legal backlash. For starters, you will need to ensure that you are meeting the basic occupational safety and health regulations, which you can find here. You should be aware that the same workplace discrimination laws for regular employees also apply to interns. When it comes to unpaid labor, there are some fairly stringent rules in place to keep things legal. This article from the U.S. Small Business Administration breaks down these rules in detail.

Although it takes some effort to fully develop an internship program, it should be well worth your time. Having one in place can be a big asset for your business and help you get ahead in your industry.


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