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Q: My company is interested in having interns this summer. How can I prepare managers for a successful internship program?
A: To have a successful internship program, there are many things that managers need to know. Some managers may believe that interns are willing to do any work other employees try to avoid. But interns are looking for meaningful experience that is related to their field of study. A good rule of thumb is that managers should assign work that will look good on an intern’s resume.
Managers need to consider carefully what qualifications they want interns to have. To entrust an intern with meaningful work, the manager should consider whether specific coursework must have been completed or if the student must have completed a certain number of years of college.
While interns aren’t usually as expensive as regular employees, there are expenses involved. Recruiting can be expensive, especially if a member of the human resources team attends job fairs at various colleges. Also, most interns qualify as “employees” under various employment laws and are subject to minimum wage and overtime laws, workers’ compensation coverage, and possibly unemployment compensation. The human resources staff can structure or revise benefit plans to exclude interns from benefits that aren’t mandatory. Also, the manager needs to prepare for the intern by ensuring that office supplies, computer access and workspace are all available.
It is important that managers understand that interns will need supervision and time. A manager overwhelmed with the current workload may feel that an intern is a solution but probably will not be able to devote the time and energy to overseeing the work that a successful internship requires. In addition to the time spent getting the office ready for an intern, getting the intern started and supervising his or her duties, the manager needs to set aside time to provide ongoing feedback and to conduct a formal performance review.
Last, the human resources department needs to communicate to managers that departments that have interns will receive ongoing support from the HR department. It is important that the HR department be available for interns who have encountered problems and for managers who are handling issues with interns.
For additional information on internships, go to SHRM’s Internship Toolkit.
Amy Maingault, SPHR, is an information specialist in the SHRM Information Center.
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