Consider These 6 Areas When Evaluating Your Internship Program

Two-thirds of organizations participating in this year’s ERC/NOCHE Intern & Recent Graduate Pay Rates & Practices Survey have a structured/formal internship program in place. Internships can come in all shapes and sizes depending on the specific industry, the needs of the employer, and the skill set of the students applying for the program.

But there are some basic features that all employers should be aware of—whether your organization is looking to start your own internship program, refine an existing program, or just find out what the competition is doing in terms of internships in Northeast Ohio.

1. Size of the Internship Program

With a few exceptions, on average, internship programs usually only involve 1-3 interns hired per year at any given organization. As one might expect, the larger the organization, the larger the number of FTEs hired into the program. Slightly larger programs are also typically found outside of the manufacturing industry.

2. Duration of the Internship

Programs most often span about 16 weeks during the summer months. However, a number of organizations also made note in this year’s survey that if an individual intern is particularly successful, and the need for an intern can be justified in terms of work load, employers like to leave their options open to extend the internship into the fall, or even throughout the year.

3. Recruiting

Most commonly, internships are targeted at and recruit from 4-year colleges/universities.

Employers are almost twice as likely to report recruiting interns from a 4-year institution (72%) than they are from a 2-year community college (37%).

Although many employers have no preference about the year of school in which potential interns are enrolled, most prefer seniors or juniors. This emphasis on more “traditional” college students continues as more employers have never hired an international student, a student aged 25 or older, or a high-school student. When probed further, this lack of diversity seems to stem from a lack of applicants representative of these various backgrounds to their internship programs.

4. Compensation, Benefits, and Perks

Apart from compensating interns monetarily, which 96% of the survey respondents report doing (usually in the form of an hourly wage), most internship programs offer very few, if any, additional benefits. Low cost (or no cost) benefits that are extended company-wide, e.g. on-site perks such as fitness centers, cafeterias, etc. or paying for/allowing interns to attend social and/or networking events are most common.

5. Mentoring the Interns

Like any other employee interns are in need of guidance along their employment journey in order to make the employment relationship useful for all parties involved.

To this end most employers provide their interns with an orientation within the first week of employment, and ongoing feedback & coaching.

Slightly fewer, but still a majority, provide interns with formal training, performance evaluations, and access to a mentor. Supervisors tend to be involved in more day-to-day administrative duties, like that initial orientation, while mentors focus more on coaching and ensuring that the intern has a useful learning experience during their time with the organization.

6. Benefits for the Organization

While the majority of organization do not calculate a formal, quantitative “ROI”, most organizations do seem to have a strong understanding of the more subjective benefits that interns bring with them to the workplace. Job duties required of interns vary greatly, largely based on industry, as well as on the individual intern’s skills and abilities. While there is definitely an emphasis on administrative type work, employers also look to interns for their creativity, tech savvy, and ability to bring new perspectives to the organization. If employers identify these abilities in particular interns, they will allow an expansion of the job duties with time. Ideally, in these situations employers will achieve the ultimate benefit of an internship program, i.e. a direct talent pipeline into their organization that will turn into full-time new hires.

Intern & Recent Graduate Pay Rates & Practices Survey

The survey, published in May of 2017, reports data from 103 organizations regarding their internship practices and pay rates.