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Headshot of Chelsea LivingstonBy Chelsea Livingston, KMA Recruiting Services Manager

A robust internship program requires an investment in time and resources on the part of the organization, but the benefits are many, including: enhanced employer branding; access to a new pipeline of talent; the influence of fresh perspectives and innovation; the opportunity to provide professional development for someone just starting out in their career; and improved productivity and an easing of the workload for your regular employees.

These five tips will help you develop a high-quality internship program:

  1. Define the structure and goals of your internship program. Before you even begin to recruit and interview potential interns, determine what you want out of your internship program. What work will the intern be tasked with? Who will manage them? What skills should they bring to the table? What skills will they gain throughout the experience? We recommend writing up a job description for your intern to set expectations (and boundaries), both for the intern and for the team members they will be working with. Too often, companies hire an intern without determining exactly what that person will be working on. This can lead to a poor internship experience where the intern is underutilized, bored or sometimes even taken advantage of. As with any hire, success requires good planning from the start.
  2. Pay your intern. Unpaid internships are on the decline, which is a good thing. We believe that interns should be paid fairly, and in doing so, you’re acknowledging the value of their work and ensuring fairness in the employment relationship. Paying interns helps avoid exploitation and creates a more equitable, accessible and diverse workplace, elevating your employer brand, and opening up the talent pipeline to a broader pool of potential employees.
  3. Provide a good onboarding experience for your intern. Setting your intern up with the same onboarding training that you offer any employee demonstrates your commitment to success for the program. It ensures the intern has access to company resources and equips them with the knowledge and tools to contribute their best work. By investing in proper onboarding, you can accelerate their learning, efficiency and output. This is a win-win and is well worth the time and effort to do it right.
  4. Provide mentoring opportunities. An internship program with a strong mentoring emphasis is attractive to interns who, in addition to skill development, are also looking for ways to build their network. Recruit mentors from within your organization who have a genuine interest in helping others develop professionally. Match the mentor and mentee based on skills, career interests and goals. Set expectations for regular meetings to provide guidance, feedback, career advice and a supportive learning environment. Organize opportunities for networking within the organization, like lunch and learns, or social events that promote relationship building.
  5. Don’t set it and forget it. A successful internship program requires continuous monitoring and communication. The person assigned to manage the intern should check in often, if not daily, to gather feedback, offer assistance, and help troubleshoot any challenges the intern might be facing. Make sure to acknowledge and celebrate your intern’s achievements and milestones throughout the program, and give them a warm sendoff when the internship comes to a close.

An excerpt of this article was published in Mainebiz on 6-26-23