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College internship programs: 6 benefits for your business


If you are wondering if a college internship program could benefit your business, the short answer is yes – in more ways than you might realize.

Behind every successful business are the people that make it hum. Committed, engaged, caring and eager to make the business succeed, it’s the people who keep the business thriving.

What better way to invite fresh, new ideas into your company culture than by recruiting interns who are eager to learn and promote your business to others?

In addition, as a successful business owner your ability to effectively manage your workforce and meet your goals – both now and as your company grows – is one of your top priorities. A well thought out internship program can help you meet these goals simultaneously by attracting top young talent who are committed to your company’s future.

What are the benefits of an internship program?

A worthwhile internship program will act as a pipeline for fostering and hiring new employees who will enrich your company. The numbers show measurable positive outcomes for the intern and your business.

A solid internship program can help recruit the talent you need to effectively grow your business. Nearly three quarters of all interns are offered a job at the end of their internship, and 85 percent accept the offer, according to a recent article from the Society for Human Resource Management.

Internships can even improve employee retention rates: 65.5 percent of former interns are still in their jobs at the one-year mark versus 46.2 percent of entry-level employees.

Consider these benefits:

  1. Year-round recruiting – An internship program supplies you with an ongoing pipeline of potential job candidates.
  2. Great marketing tool – Word of mouth is a powerful marketing tool. Happy interns will spread the word about your business to other top candidates looking to enter the workforce.
  3. Fewer miss-hires – It costs money to replace employees that looked good on paper but missed the mark on the job. Interns will show you their true hiring potential and help reduce your chances of wasting time and money on the wrong people.
  4. Increased productivity – A successful internship program can help lessen the load of your current staff and free them up to take on more in-depth projects that require their expertise and experience.
  5. Fresh ideas – Your internship program is fertile ground for bringing in new perspectives and can help stir the creative juices in your current employees.
  6. Community involvement – A thriving internship program is a great way to actively give back to your community.

What’s the key to creating a successful internship program?

Like any worthwhile project, it takes planning, commitment and flexibility.

Here are four steps to creating a fruitful college internship program that benefits the intern and your business.

1.  Follow a game plan

It’s vital to have a plan in place detailing how your intern should operate within the company. Job expectations should be clearly communicated on day one so they can hit the ground running.

Here are some tips:

  • Create a job description that outlines their role, responsibilities, pay and hours.
  • Provide regularly scheduled check-in meetings to review their progress on projects and answer any questions.
  • Take time to explain your company culture. Share your company’s mission, vision and values, so your interns understand your culture from the beginning.
  • Encourage interns to act like employees. Challenge them to be assertive, ask questions and provide feedback to others.
  • Consider appointing a mentor to support their professional development.

2.  Structure their time

A successful internship program should mimic a normal workday, while leaving room for flexibility. Be aware that some interns are attending school during their internship and might require a fluid schedule.

Some things to think about:

  • Offer the option to schedule their work hours around their classes, if needed.
  • Keep an open door policy, and encourage them to let you know if they are feeling overloaded or need to adjust their schedules.
  • Look for gaps in their workload. It can be frustrating to be at work with nothing to do.
  • Assign them both short- and long-term projects to help maintain a steady flow of work.
  • Appoint a supervisor to work with them directly and help manage their assignments.

3. Create buy-in

It’s vital to take the time to make sure that everyone in your company is committed to making your internship program a success – from the team to the CEO. Having your employees’ support will help ensure the success of your program.

Your employees, your culture and your bottom line can all be positively impacted by a strong internship program.

By providing your seasoned employees with opportunities to play a role in your internship program, you are not only taking advantage of their expertise and knowledge but you are also creating new ways for them to learn and grow.

A few points to consider:

  • Encourage your employees to share their ideas for improving the internship program’s success. Ask for their feedback to reinforce that it takes a team effort to maintain a successful program.
  • Provide opportunities for your employees to take part in your internship program. For example, you might offer leadership opportunities like conducting lunch-and-learns, leading training seminars and serving as a mentor.
  • Remind them that interns will free up some of their time for bigger, more in-depth projects that might have been sidelined due to time constraints.

4. Attract top prospects

One of the best ways to have a successful internship program is to bring in the top candidates to begin with.

Here’s some pointers:

  • Post the position early. The top students will be applying in the fall for summer internships.
  • Work with your local colleges. Contact the college career counselors and share what positions you are interested in filling. They can help match potential candidates and post your internship openings on their job boards. They will be happy to work with you and are a great resource.
  • Tap into your former interns. They are your best advocates and can be a big influencer via social media.
  • Conduct formal interviews. Treat your prospective interns the same way you would any other potential hire. The interview experience can offer great insight for you and is a valuable experience for them.

Interns bring with them untapped ideas that can add a new perspective to old ways of thinking. When you establish a strong internship program your business is primed to attract and retain the top candidates who are eager to help your business succeed.

For more ways to build a team that will increase your company’s productivity, download our free e-book, How to develop a top-notch workforce that will accelerate your business.