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 not only for sunshine and weekend beach trips, but for many students it means the start of their internships. Although internships can be completed at any point during the year, most students opt for the summer as opposed to fall or spring opportunities. In fact, summer internships are so popular that in a survey conducted in 2014, it was 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 continues 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 to hire and retain a summer intern. Employers must consult their budgets and HR departments to determine whether it is financially feasible to support an intern during the summer. Additionally, employers must also figure out what their needs are, how many interns they need (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 develop the leadership and management skills of current employees.
Often all three reasons are important 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 that there is a need for an intern, you should reach out to local colleges, universities, professional organizations and/or 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, what their motivations to work at the company are, 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 successfully complete the internship.
Some popular intern interview questions are listed below:
- Tell me about yourself.
- What are your strengths and weaknesses?
- Give me an example or a situation in which you handled conflict or a difficult situation.
- 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
How much to pay interns is another frequently asked question and important consideration to plan before launching a Summer internship program.
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 this determination. Additionally, it is important 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 either 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 year of study (i.e. a senior in college making more than a freshmen) as well as degree level (i.e. master’s or doctoral interns typically earns a higher hourly rate, attributed to the complexity of their work and corresponding education level). Although there is a suggested average, employers can certainly consider additional factors when establishing salaries such as high cost of living of the employer’s city, intensity of job functions, degree of responsibility, hours and industry. For instance, studies show that the fields of study that have 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 to 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 an individual is faced with challenging projects, they feel that much more accountable to add value to the organization. Next, it is advisable to have a lead person to help manage any internship related questions or concerns the intern may have before and during their internship. Having a staff or team member who is able to plan the program structure in advance and offer support when needed will create better organizational rapport.
It is also imperative to hold orientations and trainings 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 completely sure of what their career trajectory will entail. Being able to provide an inclusive and diverse program where they can grow and develop not only as professionals, but also individuals, will be very meaningful for them in making their longer term career decisions. Holding social and professional development programming events (both 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?
If after reading this guide 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 outcome of the project. 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!