Internship Considerations for Businesses

When it comes to businesses and organizations looking for talent, working with colleges and universities for future interns is a viable option. While projections for 2016 showed a 4.8 percent drop for internship opportunities, as the National Association of Colleges and Employers reported, the insurance, finance and real estate industries expected to increase their internship and co-op hiring by 8.4 percent in 2016 over 2015. Despite the variability, using internships can provide a great resource for finding and developing talent for the future.

There are many ways that businesses can help establish and maintain relationships with high schools and colleges for future interns. By volunteering to work with career development offices, businesses can go beyond submitting an advertisement looking for interns. A company representative might assist a university by looking over interns’ resumes, helping students build interviewing skills through mock interviews or assisting with university-led workshops.

In fact, an experienced employee who is also an alumnus may be more effective connecting with potential interns than a C-level executive. Someone who has been in college more recently can give interns a timely outlook on their own experience transition from post-secondary education to the work world. While an organization’s employee who is a recent college graduate may not be part of the human resources team, he or she could add a fresh perspective by answering student questions about the company’s mission, culture and expectations of interns.

When it comes to giving an intern responsibilities, the type of tasks will vary depending on the internship’s length of time in the industry. One responsibility an intern may be involved with is contributing to existing social media management or helping create new social media. Recent graduates are typically more familiar with the latest social media platforms and what content works with the public, and therefore can add a fresh perspective on how to procure younger clients and grow demographics. Regardless of the task assigned to an intern, supervision is recommended. Interns may be the ones who create social media, but it should be reviewed by a manager who can catch social media gaffes.

The question of compensation is often subjective. The U.S. Department of Labor maintains that if the following six criteria are met for an internship by businesses, the organization might not be subject to the pay requirements in the Fair Labor Standards Act.

According to the DOL website, the first criteria is, “the internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment”. Second, the intern must receive value from his time with the employer. The intern should not take the role of an existing employee, but be appropriately monitored by the business’ regular employees. The business may not obtain a direct benefit from the intern, and may have the organization’s normal workflow periodically slowed by the intern’s experience. There also is no expectation of the intern being hired once the internship is completed. Finally, there is a clear expectation and agreement by the intern and employer that no wages will be paid.

While these are general guidelines, internships and the organizations that use them will vary. The overall benefit is that having interns at a business can provide a fresh perspective for both the intern and the employer.