Internship Resources for Employers
Hire an intern – post internship opportunities on WOU’s online jobs board, WolfLink
What is an Internship?
An internship provides hands-on learning that integrates knowledge and theory learned in the classroom with practical application and skills development in a professional setting. Internships give students the opportunity to gain valuable experience and professional connections in fields they are considering and provides employers with the opportunity to guide and evaluate talent.
To ensure that an experience is educational, and thus eligible to be considered a legitimate internship by the National Association of Colleges and Employers definition, all the following criteria must be met:
- The experience must be an extension of the classroom: a learning experience that provides for applying the knowledge gained in the classroom. It must not be simply to advance the operations of the employer or be the work that a regular employee would routinely perform.
- The skills or knowledge learned must be transferable to other employment settings.
- The experience has a defined beginning and end, and a job description with desired qualifications.
- There are clearly defined learning objectives/goals related to the professional goals of the student’s academic coursework.
- There is supervision by a professional with expertise and educational and/or professional background in the field of the experience.
- There is routine feedback by the experienced supervisor.
- There are resources, equipment, and facilities provided by the host employer that support learning objectives/goals.
Source: Position Statement: U.S. Internships: A Definition and Criteria to Assess Opportunities And Determine the Implications for Compensation, National Association of Colleges and Employers
Experiences that Typically DO NOT qualify as Internships:
- Commission-based positions.
- Internships located in home-based businesses.
- Situations where 100% of the work is done remotely or virtually.
- Positions in which the intern displaces a regular employee.
- Positions that require door-to-door canvassing, cold-calling, or petition gathering.
- “Independent contractor” relationships that require the intern to set up his/her own business for the purpose of selling products, services, and/or recruiting other individuals to set up their own business.
- Family-owned businesses or positions supervised by a family member.
- Telemarketing positions.
- Positions in which the student is required to pay the employer for any part of the experience (fees for training, etc.).
Internship vs. Part-Time Job: What’s the Difference?
What makes internships unique is the focus on student learning. This is an opportunity for the student to apply skills learned in the classroom or elsewhere, that tie to the student’s academic, career or personal goals. While the student might perform some roles that are not for their learning, the goal is for them to explore and practice their professional identity under supervision and with mentoring.
An example could be a student wanting to apply their writing skills and learn professionalism by writing press releases. The expectation is that the student needs some coaching and guidance and not be expected to accomplish the task perfectly on the first try. With gentle feedback, however, the final output will be professional, well written and offer a fresh, student oriented perspective that relates to your audience.
Benefits of an Internship
Employers who use interns are provided the opportunity to temporarily increase staff size and accomplish short-term projects at minimal costs. Interns bring a current knowledge base and new perspectives to the work environment. Employers can also benefit from an enhanced reputation on campus spread through word of mouth by satisfied interns and positive faculty relationships. A positive internship experience can lead to a potential full-time hire that requires minimal training, is able to take on more immediate responsibility, and stays longer with the organization.
Interns are professionally minded, they have goals, and they are eager to learn and apply their learning. This opportunity is more than a job; it is the beginning of their career and they will take their work more seriously than a part-time student employee might. An intern does not replace a person on your staff, but can accomplish projects on your to-do list, help design a program, or allow you to offer services differently.
- Creates the opportunity to recruit future employees. (In one year, Hewlett Packard recruited 70% of its new hires from its pool of interns.)
- Gives the opportunity to evaluate prospective employees virtually risk free.
- Saves money since an intern receives less pay and fewer benefits than a full-time employee.
- Functions as flexible, cost-effective work force without long-term commitments.
- Frees up professional staff to pursue more creative projects.
- Offers a year-round source of highly motivated pre-professionals.
- Garners quality candidates for temporary or seasonal positions and short-term projects.
- Brings new and innovative ideas to an employer.
- Presents an excellent way to find new, energetic, and skilled employees who bring latest industry knowledge fresh from lectures and other campus resources.
- Seamlessly converts student interns to full-time employees who can be immediately productive.
- Strengthens the bond with the university and projects a favorable image in the community.
- Allows the employer the opportunity to have an impact on molding the lives of students.
- Gain exposure to real-world problems and issues that perhaps are not found in textbooks.
- Cultivate adaptability and creativity in a dynamic world.
- Increase marketability to employers. On average, only 30% of graduating seniors have job offers before graduation; however, after completing an internship, that figure rises to 58%.
- Evaluate specific companies or specific careers prior to committing to full-time employment—a “try before you buy” type experience.
- Ease transition from being a student to entering the workforce.
- Increase opportunities within a company for faster advancement and growth.
- Increase self-confidence in the workplace while developing an expanded network of associates and professionals.
- Facilitate a higher starting salary than non-interns. In a recent study interns received, on average, $2,240 more than non-interns for starting salary.
- Have resume-building experiences while applying academic concepts and principles.
- Have opportunities to fund college education.
- Have personal growth experiences and exposure to different job opportunities.
- Have hands-on opportunities to work with equipment and technology that may not be available on campus.
Developing an Internship Program
The following criteria should be considered when constructing an internship position:
- Internships can occur during the fall, spring, or summer and range from a couple of months to over six months in duration. The average internship lasts about a term (10 weeks).
- While some internships are full-time, most range from 10 – 30 hours per week.
- Internships can be paid (preferably) or unpaid (typically non-profit settings), for credit or not for credit, or any combination of these. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Fact Sheet #71: Internship Programs Under the Fair Labor Standards Act provides guidance regarding whether your interns should be paid.
- Details about the number of hours worked, length of internship, rate of pay, and other specifics are typically negotiated between employers and potential interns. Internships for-credit may include input from a a faculty advisor.
- Normally, an intern does not receive employee or retirement benefits.
Developing an internship position will require some research and planning on your part to provide a well-rounded, positive, learning experience for the intern. Many internship positions are formed by identifying the following criteria:
Interns can be utilized to accomplish special projects such as creating promotional materials, conducting research, designing web pages and organizing special events and programs. The goals, deadlines, and outcomes for a project-focused internship should be identified so that everyone clearly understands the interns roles and responsibilities.
Some organizations routinely experience peak periods where additional staff are needed, or there is a continuous demand for staff due to limited budgets. Interns can help to alleviate some of these staffing concerns. For example, interns can be assigned to serve as public relations assistants, marketing associates or computer support staff. Since professional development should be the priority, it is inappropriate to assign an intern to a position that is strictly clerical in scope. While there are clerical duties associated with any position, these should not be the focus of the internship.
Once the internship duties have been identified, you should determine the time required to fulfill the duties of the internship. This includes the number of months and hours per week the intern will work.
LEVEL OF STAFF SUPPORT
Although you and your supervisor may see the need for an intern in your organization, you must also gain the support of other staff members who may be working with and mentoring the intern during his or her stay.
Once you have identified the scope of the internship and necessary resources, you will need to create a job description that explains the duties, skills, qualifications, pay, and time commitments of the internship. The completed job description will be used to begin the recruiting process. We can assist you with your hiring efforts through our recruiting services.
Effective mentoring strategies contribute to intern motivation and performance and enable interns to acclimate more quickly to your organizational culture. Successful mentors are strong listeners, offer frequent and honest feedback, work to understand the intern’s strengths and weaknesses, and focus on the intern’s professional as well as personal growth. Consider the following tips for mentoring your interns:
- Introduce interns to co-workers and key contacts within the organization and familiarize interns with company rules and policies.
- Utilize the “buddy system” by assigning mentors who can show interns the ropes and accelerate their productivity and sense of belonging.
- Communicate job expectations in a clear and concise manner. Encourage interns to ask questions to clarify job responsibilities.
- Assign the intern challenging tasks and projects that offer growth opportunities matched to the intern’s abilities and interests.
- Provide shadowing time for interns to observe other staff and include interns in staff meetings and related professional activities whenever possible.
Providing performance feedback is critical to the intern and success of your internship program. The evaluation process can include post-internship surveys and exit interviews.
Internships for Academic Credit
Policies and procedures regarding internships for credit, are somewhat unique to each academic department at WOU. Most programs have a designated course of 1-12 available credits. The program or designated faculty member stipulates prerequisites as well as a process for creating learning outcomes, reflection and supervision. In order for an internship or an experiential learning activity to be eligible for academic credit, several individuals must work together: the student, faculty advisor, and the site supervisor. Below you will find general guidelines on the role of host sites supporting interns receiving academic credit.
- NACE Improving Academic Internships, National Association of Colleges and Employers
Recruiter/Host Organization Responsibilities
- Your primary responsibility as an internship provider or supervisor is to provide an educational and professional opportunity for a student that will enable him or her to learn more about the career options in your organization or industry.
- Your organization is responsible for abiding by policies set by the U.S. Department of Labor with regard to internship compensation.
- In some instances, academic departments may not allow a student who is earning academic credit to also receive compensation.
- If a student is seeking academic credit for your internship, they will be responsible for asking you to complete any necessary paperwork prior to the start of the internship, in order to be eligible to register for the course number. You may be asked to provide a signed letter for proof of employment.
- The student will also share with you any review forms that are requested by his or her academic department for mid-point and/or end of internship reviews.
Best Practices and Legal Issues
The U.S. Department of Labor has developed sevene criteria for identifying a learner/trainee who may be unpaid. These criteria are as follows:
- The extent to which the intern and the employer clearly understand that there is no expectation of compensation. Any promise of compensation, express or implied, suggests that the intern is an employee—and vice versa.
- The extent to which the internship provides training that would be similar to that which would be given in an educational environment, including the clinical and other hands-on training provided by educational institutions.
- The extent to which the internship is tied to the intern’s formal education program by integrated coursework or the receipt of academic credit.
- The extent to which the internship accommodates the intern’s academic commitments by corresponding to the academic calendar.
- The extent to which the internship’s duration is limited to the period in which the internship provides the intern with beneficial learning.
- The extent to which the intern’s work complements, rather than displaces, the work of paid employees while providing significant educational benefits to the intern.
- The extent to which the intern and the employer understand that the internship is conducted without entitlement to a paid job at the conclusion of the internship.
All seven requirements must be satisfied in order for an intern to be deemed a non-employee trainee (exempt from FLSA minimum wage requirements).
If you are a nonprofit employer or government agency, consider providing compensation to:
- Attract skilled interns.
- Increase intern commitment and reward for contributions.
- Reduce financial burdens that may require a student to work a second job during their internship (or limit internship opportunities to only those students who can afford them).
- Offset the cost of paying for tuition when a student chooses (or is required) to earn credit for an internship.
Additional ways to compensate interns:
- Offer a stipend.
- Provide networking opportunities (through professional association memberships, sponsoring attendance at networking events, opportunities to sit in on meetings, participation in workplace or vendor-provided training, and get to know personnel from other departments to increase organizational knowledge).
- Cover out-of-pocket transportation, tuition for internship credit, or housing costs.
- Legal Issues: Internships, National Association of Colleges and Employers
- Internship Programs Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division
- 8 Principles for Experiential Learning Activities, National Society for Experiential Education
- 15 Best Practices for Internship Programs, National Association of Colleges and Employers
- Internship Program Standards, Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education
- Position Statement on Internships, National Association of Colleges and Employers
Recruit a WOU Intern
WOU hosts career fairs each year providing recruiters the opportunity to network with students and promote open positions and future opportunities. Learn more about our career fairs by visiting our events page.
Post internship opportunities to WOU’s online jobs board, WolfLink. All current students and alumni can view your postings.
We provide a number of opportunities for you to connect face-to-face with WOU students, including in-class visits, tabling, and information sessions. Learn more about scheduling and costs on our recruiting guide page.