Handshake of african american male intern after job interview for the internship program at office of a small business. Concept: How and why to start an internship program in your small business
Maja Mirosavljevic
By: mmirosavljevic
Read in 8 minutes

How and Why to Start an Internship Program in Your Small Business

An internship program is great not only for employers but for the interns themselves. No wonder why they’re having a boom lately.

You’re probably wondering if anyone can start an internship program. How does one go about starting an internship program? Can a small business start an internship program?

This article will answer all your questions and provide you with practical pieces of advice that will definitely come in handy during the whole process. Without further ado, let’s start.

What are internship programs?

The concept “internship” comes from the medieval apprenticeship tradition in which experienced laborers would pass their knowledge to a younger person and teach them their trade, in exchange, the apprentice would work for the teacher for some time.

The modern concept of internship refers to an opportunity given by an employer to potential employees, in other words: interns, who are usually students or undergraduates who work at a company for a certain amount of time either part time or full time. Most internship programs last from one to three months.

During that time, interns will gain practical skills as well as soft skills, like communication, problem-solving and personal effectiveness skills. More importantly, they will get familiar with the industry and get work experience, which will help them strengthen their resume and pursue with ease their dream career.

Besides, internship programs can be either paid or voluntary. The first option involves a small financial compensation for the interns’ work, while the second option doesn’t include any payment.

Unlike apprenticeships, internship programs are more exploratory. This means that the interns don’t have to work for the employer after the internship.

Now that you’ve learned the basics of internship programs, it’s time to find out how you can benefit from them. Keep on reading.

Why start an internship program?

Internship programs represent an excellent opportunity to hire talent temporarily (and if they’re good enough, permanently). But, there’s even more:

  • You’ll get a new perspective on your business challenges

Because interns don’t know how the system usually works, they bring an out of the box way of thinking and fresh ideas. They question the normal process and offer innovative solutions that you or other employees may miss.

  • Your employees will be better leaders

The internship program gives your managers the possibility to enhance their leadership skills by teaching young students. Becoming a leader will prepare them to face future business difficulties more adequately.

  • You’ll get help to complete tasks and projects on time

When a deadline clock is ticking, anyone could use an extra pair of hands to get everything done. Make sure you give your interns some meaningful work you both can benefit from.

  • You’ll get help with technology

Students are comfortable with using different social media channels and technology is an integral part of their everyday life. They can help you bring your company to the digital century and in that way boost your productivity or visibility on social networks.

  • You’ll gain brand ambassadors

Interns will talk about their internship experience with their family and friends. They will spread the word about their positive and negative experiences, so make sure you provide more positive ones.

  • You’ll provide a trial period

An internship program is a great way to see the potential of the recent graduate and how he or she fits in your corporate culture before you actually hire them.

After discovering all the benefits that an internship program has to offer, you are probably interested in learning how to organize one.

Let’s find out!

How to start a successful internship program?

Creating a successful internship program isn’t rocket science. Follow these steps and with a little bit of good organization and effort, you have your own in no time.

1. Get familiar with labor laws

Make sure you check The Test for Unpaid Interns and Students to know if your internship program qualifies as a paid or unpaid program. If your program doesn’t apply as an unpaid one, pay your interns a fair wage and don’t risk a million dollar lawsuit.

2. Set goals

For starters, it’s crucial to determinate what you want to achieve with the internship program.

Do you need to hire a new employee or maybe you need help to get everything done while your workers are on summer vacation? Once you figure out your objectives, you can organize the intern’s tasks accordingly. Remember to make them beneficial for both parties.

3. Create a detailed job description

When you establish the assignments your interns will have, you can easily create a clear job description. That way, everybody will know their responsibilities and you’ll avoid misunderstandings and poor work performance.

Besides, it’s an excellent way to evaluate the accomplishments of your interns and estimate the success of your internship program.

4. Assign a mentor to each intern

Providing a mentor is a win-win strategy. Interns will have the opportunity to get constant feedback and regularly improve their work, while your employees will get a chance to develop leadership skills.

Likewise, having a mentor means that students won’t have to learn everything on their own and they will blend in quicker.

5. Meaningful work

Make sure you develop short term and long term projects to keep your interns busy and help them grow and thrive.

Interns usually complain that they don’t work enough during their internship program or that they work on senseless tasks, so remember to keep them engaged with some meaningful work.

6. Provide regular feedback

An internship program may be the first contact with corporate culture and work life, so don’t forget to provide your interns with regular feedback. You can schedule performance reviews where you can discuss the intern’s work. Praise a good job and point out room for improvement or what can be done better.

Open communication is the key to a successful internship.

7. Appreciate the interns’ work

Showing appreciation will make your interns feel valued, and it will build their self-esteem. This will give them a sense of belonging so they will try their best to give their contribution to the company.

A simple “thanks” or “well done” can make a huge difference.

It’s time for you to start an internship program

At first, an internship program may seem like an additional commitment that requires the time and effort you might not have. However, you should consider it as an investment that will most certainly pay off.

Not only will you improve your business efficiency and turn your employees into leaders, but you will also invest in young people and give them the opportunity to gain practical experience and step into a business world.

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