Creating an Internship Program

Creating and Planning a Successful Internship Program

a) Define internship goals

Ideally, a successful internship program should meet the organization’s needs while providing students with relevant career experiences. An internship is a supervised work experience in which a student has intentional learning goals and reflects actively on what is being learned throughout the experience. Learning activities common to internships include learning objectives, observation, reflection, evaluation, and assessment. A brief outline of things you may wish to consider as you begin establishing your program is outlined below.

  • Determine organization needs and capacity
    1. What department or work area would benefit from an intern’s assistance?
    2. What learning opportunities can your organization provide the student?
    3. Who will be able to mentor the student providing evaluation of the student’s performance while bridging practical experience to what is being learned in the classroom?
  • Set Goals for the Internship Program
    1. What does your organization hope to achieve from an internship program?
    2. What are the desired outcomes for your organization and the student?
  • Define the Internship
    1. What will the intern be responsible for? Have a clear job description outlining the intern’s job duties.
    2. Who will be the student’s supervisor? This person should have the time, knowledge and positivity to mentor the student.
    3. What qualifications are required of the intern? (e.g. Communication skills, computer skills, etc.)

b) Internship Compensation

In order to comply with the Fair Labor Standards Act, it is required that all employers that are for profit pay their interns, unless the intern is receiving academic credit. Government agencies and Not-For-Profits may host interns without pay. An intern's hours will vary depending on the time of year. For an unpaid internship (for academic credit) to be a bona fide unpaid internship, the employer needs to comply with the Fair Labor Standards Act which details that:

  • The activity undertaken by the students need to be typical of an educational/vocational experience.
  • The training is for the benefit of the students.
  • The students do not displace regular employees, but work under the close observation of a regular employee or supervisor.
  • The employer provides the training and derives no immediate advantage from the activities of students, and, on occasion, the operations may actually be impeded by the training.
  • The students are not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the experience.
  • The employer and the student understand that the student is not entitled to wages for the experience.

Keep in mind that paid interns make ideal workers who are hungry to learn, eager to make a good impression and willing to perform a multitude of tasks. The realtively small amount of money employers spend on intern wages and benefits is a good investment because it often produces future, long-term employees.