Developing Your Internship Program

What tips should I follow to help ensure that my internship program will be a success?

Gain Management Support. Getting a commitment from the management team will help ensure that the organization will be able to focus the time, energy, supervisory and financial resources (if applicable) to developing a strong internship program.

Define Specific Eligibility Requirements. Determine eligibility requirements for all interns, including: currently enrolled college students, GPA, preferred/required major(s), specific skills and experience.

Develop Strong Working Relationships with College Contacts. Developing relationships with career counselors and Fresno State Faculty Internship Coordinators will help to promote your internship program as well as helping to find out what college students are looking for in an internship experience.

Define Internship Benefits as well as any Housing, Transportation, or Food Stipends Available to Interns. Determine if the internship will be paid (salary recommendations based on entry-level positions in the field). Some organizations offer unpaid internships, but require students do the internship for credit (which can add additional college tuition costs to the student doing an internship for the summer). Depending on the organization, many organizations offer housing and/or transportation stipends for both paid and unpaid internships.

Develop an Orientation Program for New Interns. Provide an orientation to acclimate students to the organization’s policies and practices.

Provide Training, Supervision, and Mentoring to all Students. Provide adequate staff to train and supervise students as well as assigning a mentor to guide students through the internship experience.

Provide Opportunities for Students to Learn. Create quality and meaningful work assignments designed to help students learn and gain knowledge in the field.

Develop Detailed Job Descriptions. Provide students with a detailed written job description outlining tasks and responsibilities of the internship.

Provide Students with Ongoing Feedback. Offer consistent feedback throughout the internship and provide students ample opportunity to provide feedback to immediate supervisors.

Establish Guidelines for Turning Interns into Full-Time Employees. Oftentimes organizations will extend full-time job offers to students after graduation and may use internship programs specifically as a hiring tool for selecting new employees.

What are the legal issues for employers?

Liability. Employers should check their workers’ compensation law to see if it has been interpreted to include interns as "covered employees." If an intern is deemed to be an employee under workers’ compensation law, the organization is responsible for paying his or her medical benefits and wages. It is recommended that companies cover interns under worker’s compensation insurance even when they may not be required by state law to do so.

Safety. In certain work environments, it is paramount that the employer explains the organization’s safety policy and records in the student worker’s record that the procedures have been reviewed. Companies that generally have good safety records do not see an increase in safety problems from the presence of students at a work site.

Termination and Learning agreements. In most companies, student workers are at-will employees who can be terminated for poor performance or other reasons during the course of their assignment. The employer needs to tell the student why it is terminating him/her and notify the school. It is up to the school to decide, based on whatever agreement it may have with its students, whether it will assign the student to another company.

Harassment. Employers are liable if a student worker experiences harassment while on the job. Employers should review their companies’ guidelines for appropriate workplace behavior and complaint procedures with interns and co-op students. Remind regular employees that company guidelines apply to students and that the company expects them to treat students appropriately.