Everything you need to know to create, plan, and optimize a summer internship program for your company!
The sweet smell of summer vacation is an invitation for sunshine and weekend beach trips, and it also signifies the start of internships for many students. Although students can complete internships at any point during the year, most students opt for the summer instead of fall or spring opportunities. Summer internships are so popular that a survey conducted in 2014, determined that 84% of employers offer summer internships, and an unsurprising 75% of college undergraduates work in an internship at some point. This growth and demand continue to progress, and as a result, it's never too early to start planning a summer internship program. Use this handy walkthrough to plan and prepare to have a great summer internship program that attracts talented Career Launchers to your company.
Do I Need An Intern?
One of the earliest concerns employers face is the planning and preparation process that hiring and retaining a summer intern entails. Employers must consult their budgets and HR departments to determine whether it is financially feasible to support an intern during the summer. Employers must also assess their needs, how many interns they require (and for how long), and what work the interns can support them on.
The three most popular reasons to hire an intern or start an internship program are
- you have more work than your staff can handle but don’t necessarily need full-time help;
- you want to develop future entry-level employees, or
- you want to build the leadership and management skills of current employees.
Often all three reasons are essential for starting an internship program at your company. Get help making a business case for creating an internship by downloading our step-by-step guide.
Finding, Interviewing, and Onboarding Interns
Once you determine a need for an intern, you should reach out to local colleges, universities, professional organizations, and online platforms like Parker Dewey to select potential candidates for the internship. You will need time to review resumes before moving on to interviewing, a two-way process that is instrumental for both you and the internship seeker to determine if there is a mutual fit. Depending on the internship responsibilities, you may want to focus an interview on how the candidate will respond to high-pressure situations, their motivations to work at the company, and their goals and ultimate plans after graduation. You can also inquire about the candidates’ coursework, school involvement, and extracurricular activities that may be helpful to completing the internship successfully.
Some popular intern interview questions are listed below:
- Tell me about yourself.
- What are your strengths and weaknesses?
- Give me an example of a situation in which you handled conflict or a difficult situation.
- Could you walk me through your resume?
- What are your career goals, and where do you see yourself in five years?
Check out our guide: 20 Questions to Ask During an Intern Interview
Internship Salary Requirements
Before launching a summer internship program, how much to pay interns is another frequently asked question and important consideration.
Once a candidate has been identified and offered the internship, it is imperative to discuss salary expectations. Under The Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), “for-profit” employers are required to pay employees for their work. To determine whether an intern qualifies as an employee, Courts have used the flexible seven-factor “primary beneficiary test” to make a determination. Additionally, it is vital to study the wage requirements for interns in for-profit businesses per state labor standards.
Assuming that an intern does qualify as an employee per the FLSA standards, it is imperative to calculate a fair wage, which can be done through an hourly wage rate or a project rate depending on industry and work-production expectations. For example, a recent internship study survey from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) provides current benchmarks. An intern at the bachelor’s degree level is, on average, paid $18.73 (hourly). Of course, this average would vary depending on the year of study (i.e., a senior in college making more than a freshman) and degree level (i.e., master’s or doctoral interns typically earn a higher hourly rate, attributed to the complexity of their work corresponding education level). Although there is a suggested average, employers can certainly consider additional factors when establishing salaries, such as the high cost of living of the employer’s city, the intensity of job functions, degree of responsibility, hours, and industry. For instance, studies show that the fields of study with the highest average hourly rate for bachelor’s-level interns are computer science, engineering, math/statistics, and health science or nursing compared to statistically lowest rates within human resources, communications, and marketing. Additionally, getting paid for internships within the government sector, a highly competitive environment, may depend on negotiating steps within one’s grade level. These conversations can be fleshed out for internship seekers with the agencies’ human resources department.
Managing Summer Interns
Although an internship duration can range anywhere from six weeks to twelve, with Micro-Internships often under 40 hours in scope, it is imperative to develop a plan to keep the intern on track and maximize their experience. Here are a few steps you can take to optimize the summer internship program and build a solid talent pipeline. First, best practices for internship programs include providing interns with real work assignments. When individuals face challenging projects, they feel much more accountable to add value to the organization. Next, it is advisable to have a lead person help manage any internship-related questions or concerns the intern may have before and during their internship. Having a staff member who can plan the program structure in advance and offer support when needed will create better organizational rapport.
It is also imperative to hold orientations for all involved that discuss a wide range of issues, including, but not limited to, diversity, sensitivity training, human resources, and career center. Many interns, especially those in college, are not entirely sure of their career trajectory. Providing an inclusive and diverse program where they can grow and develop as professionals and individuals will be very meaningful for them in making their longer-term career decisions. Holding social and professional development events (during business hours and after work) can encourage positive camaraderie and team spirit.
Dig deeper on this topic by reading Internships 101 for Employers
What If We're Not Ready for a Summer Internship Program?
After reading this guide, if you realize you're starting to plan for your program too late in the game, or if you need additional support but not within the traditional internship scope, consider Micro-Internships. Micro-internships are a valuable resource whereby both students and prospective employers benefit on a short-term basis. A Micro-Internship can be a project for a short period of time that can extend into something longer, or even permanent, based on the project's outcome. It is also a surefire way for employers to “sample” work before making a commitment.
You could even create a Micro-Internship to help you plan your Summer internship program!