How to … Create effective internships
By Beth Luberecki
Samantha Scott wanted to help the next generation of public-relations professionals. So the president of Pushing the Envelope Inc., a Fort Myers-based marketing communications firm, began to offer internships at her company.
What started with just one intern a year has since grown to three to four interns a semester.
That expansion came after the company reached out to local universities to learn how to tailor their internships to meet students’ needs and expectations. “It can be a little daunting when you think about how much time or money it will require,” says Scott. “But it’s worth it for your business and your interns.”
Start by determining why you want an intern. Do you want to help train future workers, like Scott? Do you want to use internships to source talent? Know what you hope to get out of an internship program before bringing in students.
Proper research is also key. Familiarize yourself with the Fair Labor Standards Act to determine if you’ll be required to pay your interns, for example.
Unpaid internships are becoming less common. If you go that route, you may have more difficulty attracting the best ones. “Students have choices,” says Lynn Chisholm, director of internships and career readiness at the University of South Florida. “If they’re working their way through college and they can do a paid internship versus an unpaid internship, guess which one they’re going to take?”
Before an intern comes on board, businesses need to map out who’s responsible for supervising and training them. “Make sure you plan to invest enough time,” says Scott. “This isn’t something you can set up and magically the interns are going to know how to do everything and not need any help. The entire program is training and education.”
Interns expect to do more than just fetch coffee, too. “Students are looking for the opportunity to be involved and make an impact,” says Ryan McNulty, talent acquisition partner/campus relations at Tech Data Corp., a Clearwater-based distributor of technology products and services that hires about 20 interns each summer. “Our interns love to see items they’re working on ultimately get implemented by the business.”
Another key part of creating effective internships? Recognize the training must include the nuances of business communications. That includes the proper way to write a business email or what’s not acceptable to share on social media, Chisholm says.
Consider an internship like something of a crystal ball, a chance to get a glimpse of who could be leading your company — or your competitors — down the road. “These students are going to be the ones who fill up the workforce,” says McNulty. “It’s a competitive marketplace out there for talent, and if you’re not doing internships you’re really not staying competitive.”
Originally posted on Business Observer.