Get the Most from Your Interns

Get the Most from Your Interns

Interns are like seeds. If they’re placed correctly and given the right kinds of resources to grow and succeed, they can be a huge asset for any small business. All it takes is a little preparation and proper management to get your internship program into shape and start seeing positive results.

What’re Your Expectations?

The current business climate presents very high demand for skilled labor and qualified applicants, giving internship programs more opportunity than ever. Companies need workers that fit their business model and internships enable them to mold individuals into the types of candidates they’re seeking.

If your company thinks of interns only as menial labor, then neither the company nor the intern will gain much from participating. Instead, think of them as young trainees that could one day be full-time employees. Start forming good habits and setting good examples right away.

How to Get the Most from Your Interns

Keep in mind that internships are supposed to benefit the intern. Your job is to help them develop their skills. On the surface that seems altruistic, but in reality it helps build a skilled, oriented, and prepared future employee, so there’s a lot for companies to gain.

  • Give them real work.
    An intern’s work should be meaningful, connected with their goals as learners, and an appropriate fit for your company’s needs. During your first meeting with your new intern, ask them about what they’re trying to achieve. A person majoring in accounting, for example, would probably bring more enthusiasm to your financial department than a different one that’s unrelated to their studies.
  • Assign a manager.
    Be sure to assign one specific individual to manage and mentor your interns. This will help deliver clearer, concise delegations to your learners and ensures more reliable oversight.
  • Give them feedback.
    Interns are there to learn. Routine feedback is important to them and valuable for their development. Regular project check-ins and benchmarks should take place several times a week to ensure appropriate progress is being made. This will also help your interns understand how their tasks fit into the overall operations of your company.
  • Engage them.
    To learn all they can about being part of a company, an intern must be part of a company. Professional expectations are developed experientially. Ask interns for their opinion. Involve them in meetings. Take them along on sales pitches. Invite them to team-building activities. Make them a part of your company, not a fly on the wall.
  • Be a role model.
    Remember, your interns have limited experience in a professional workplace setting. Set the tone for what they should expect in their careers by being a good role model. Like all learners, they’re absorbing everything around them constantly. Be an example of workplace appropriateness, competency, responsibility, and diligence.

Tips for Successfully Managing College and High School Interns

  • Set clear goals
  • Make sure to share unwritten rules
  • Ensure challenging and meaningful assignments
  • Include them in regular meetings and team activities
  • Provide regular feedback
  • Recognize a job well done
  • Provide time for mentoring
  • Respect their time outside of work

Source: Indiana INTERNnet

Lots of Good Partners are Available

If you’re looking for institutions that you can partner with for internship program support, you’re in luck. There’s really never been a better time. Educators and workforce development initiatives want to align their instruction with the needs of today’s companies, so many of them are eagerly looking for more input from the business community.

One of the easiest ways to get started is by posting your available internships to the Indiana INTERNnet. It’s a free resource that connects students, employers, and educators. Any posts that you create on the site are shared among partnering colleges and universities.

The INTERNnet also works with the Indiana Commission for Higher Education to facilitate Employment Aid Readiness Network (EARN) funding. Under this program, employers can get up to 50 percent matching funds reimbursed for any wages paid to their interns.

Beyond that, employers have the opportunity to host paid interns at no cost to their company via the Accelerate Indiana Internship Program administered by Indiana Wesleyan University (IWU). Funded by a grant from Lilly Endowment, the program essentially pays interns to work at your business. Currently, the program is looking for “employers who can give students an internship with meaningful work and transferable skills.”

Numerous other schools have their own programs. Vincennes University, for example, has made the call for more advanced manufacturing companies to partner with them for internship programs that directly address the industry’s skilled labor shortage. VU’s InternPLUS readies students for full-time employment at their internship companies.

Ivy Tech Community College, Purdue University, Indiana University, local high schools in your area, and many of your local county workforce development organizations can all connect your company with interns and serve as a support system to help you build your program.

Your Company’s Next Generation

Keep in mind that your interns could very well be the next generation of your company. Estimates from the National Association of Colleges and Employers say that internships lead to full-time jobs between 40 and 65 percent of the time, depending on the type of internship. This gives employers a golden opportunity to shape the future of their company by instilling their unique values in a young person at the very start of their career, with literally nowhere to go but up.