Everybody’s Business

April 26, 2013

Can an internship program really be a win-win?

Absolutely. Creating an internship program, if done right, can be incredibly valuable to your organization.

By Debra Mounsey, Director of Human Resources, Community Reinvestment Fund, USA

CRF has employed more than 80 Interns since 1994, and has learned a lot along the way.

Why does a student participate in an internship?
An Intern's number one goal is not to fetch coffee for everyone in the office, but to gain experience. They want to learn how a work place functions in their field, to network with people, and to build their resume for their career.

Now, why would an organization offer an internship program?
Believe it or not, it can be a tremendous benefit to your organization. At CRF, we expect our Interns to bring their classroom knowledge and perspective, along with their can-do attitudes, and of course their technological skills. We've learned a lot from their fresh perspectives and ideas. It is the most consistent win-win situation I have encountered in my career, not to mention the most cost-effective solution to fluctuating workloads for our employees.

How could your organization go about getting an Intern? Here are some pointers:

How to recruit:

  • Spread the word through your own network and you will be surprised at the response.

  • Look for free ad placement websites with your local Universities. Students scour these ad websites regularly.

  • Build relationships with Universities that offer stellar programs that relate to your business.

  • Look for Alumni organizations from Universities that have programs to place Interns.  They are more common than you think.

Type of Intern to look for:

  • A student that has a focus of study that correlates with the job you intend for them.

  • A student that produces a resume that shows they have a work ethic. In other words, a resume that indicates they have been productive in their past.

  • A student that can generally work for more than a couple months.

  • A student that you can "hire for attitude, train for results" - Frank Altman, CRF's President and CEO

When to bring an Intern onboard:

  • Interns generally get nervous if they don't have a full-time summer Internship by mid-April.

  • Interns love to work during the school year, but scheduling needs to be mastered. A student's top priority is school work. We have found that the threshold for productive time spent at an Internship is a minimum of 12 hours a week, less than 12 turns out to be more of a hassle and generally not beneficial for both parties.

  • Interns are also generally available to work full-time during breaks throughout the school year.

How to prepare for the work the Intern will be doing:

  • Choose a supervisor for the Intern that will go the extra mile and can be flexible. They need to be taught, trained, and monitored.

  • Create a job description for the Intern, and for internal planning and budgeting purposes, attach a time factor for each task in the description. This will also help with evaluating your experience.

  • Teach them as much as possible about your organization and departments within your organization. One tactic CRF uses for this is having regular Lunch and Learns during the summer facilitated by Managerial staff.

  • To pay or not to pay, that is the question. CRF chooses to pay their Interns, although there are many worthwhile Internship's in the world that are unpaid.

Side benefits of having a regular Internship program:

  • You give back to the community.

  • You teach valuable skill, knowledge and work ethic.

  • You provide your industry with the next generation of leaders.

  • You reap the benefits of the intern job being done well.

  • You build a relationship that will be positively talked about in student circles.

  • You learn from the intern what is new from the classroom perspective.

  • You keep your technological skills sharp.

  • You are cost-effective.

  • You give management development opportunity to staff that doesn't regularly manage.

  • You create a network for the Interns and add valuable relationships to yours.

  • You give opportunity for success to the Intern.

CRF believes strongly in the value that Interns bring to our organization, and the value we have been able to give them in return.

If you've never hired an Intern, give it a try, see if you don't agree.

Posted by: CRFUSA


Very interesting article, Deb. Thanks.

on June 10th, 2013 at 07:52am