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How to Create a Successful Internship Program

Establishing a top internship program at your company is a great way to create a pipeline of new talent while working toward meeting your diversity recruiting goals. A successful internship program will help you attract and retain early career talent that breathes new life into your organization and helps shape its future. Like any other strategy in your recruiting toolbox, internship programs should be carefully planned in order to yield the best results. These tips can help you implement an effective internship program that attracts the talent you want, and helps students get the most out of the experience.

How Do You Create an Effective Internship Program?

If you’re not sure how to create a successful internship program, the following tips can help:

Choose a coordinator

One way to set up an internship program for success is by choosing a coordinator who will be in charge of managing the daily nuts and bolts. Ideally, you want someone who has been at your organization for a while because they're in the best position to understand your company's goals and culture, so they can provide guidance that helps interns succeed in your work environment.

Create measurable goals

What makes a great internship program? What do you want to accomplish? Do you want to hire talent from underrepresented backgrounds or increase the early career talent in your hiring funnel? Before moving forward, you must decide exactly what your program should accomplish so you can plan effectively.

Understand applicable laws

Every state has different laws for how companies should engage interns, so it's important to understand regulations before bringing any interns on board. From wages to unemployment insurance to workers compensation, there are certain rules you may need to know to avoid risk of liability.

Offer competitive compensation

Although many organizations treat interns as free labor, this is not the way to attract the best talent and create long-term employees. Whether or not your state requires that interns be paid, it's still a good idea to offer fair compensation for their time—even if they’re earning academic credit. This will increase the chances of interns being interested in working for your company after graduation.

Provide each intern with a mentor

The more your organization invests in interns, the more likely they'll be excited about possibly working there later. By assigning a mentor to each intern, they’ll get the opportunity to build a relationship with someone who is knowledgeable about your company, receive personal feedback on their performance, and get guidance on how to achieve their career goals.

How Do You Structure an Internship Program?

Once you’ve determined what the goals of your internship program will be, and reviewed what is expected by law, it's time to define the parameters of how the program will be structured. To do this, you should consider how many weeks or months you want interns to work for you, what their hours should be, and whether the internship will be a one-time opportunity or ongoing engagement.

In addition to the logistics of how the program will work, you will have to decide what type of work your interns will be doing. What projects make the most sense for interns to work on? What skills do students need to learn? Since you're probably creating the internship to help with your recruitment efforts, it's a good idea to assign projects that not only help your organization, but help students reach their goals. Giving interns busy work that no one else wants to do won’t cut it. The more engaging their work is, and the more you show you're interested in their development, the more likely early career professionals will see your company as a viable employer.

How Do You Measure the Success of an Internship Program?

To determine the success of your internship program, it's important to regularly review how what you've achieved measures up against your goals. Audit your progress so you know if there's anything in the program that needs to be adjusted or if your goals should be revisited. 

In addition, it's important to get feedback from your interns to find out what they think of the experience. You can do this by conducting exit interviews and surveys to learn their opinions of your organization, how successful the internship was, and whether they would consider working for you or recommending your company to peers. This will give you invaluable information on how effective your internship program has been, as well as inform you on what should change to make it more appealing.

Developing a strong internship program can go a long way toward helping you build a strong workforce that moves your organization into the future. These tips will help you create a successful internship program that benefits your company, as well as the early career talent you want to attract.

Looking to be inspired? Check out our Top Internship Programs of 2022 to see how other organizations are creating impactful internship programs.

Top 75 Internship Programs of 2022

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