A Complete Guide to Developing an Internship Program as a Small Business

These days, finding and keeping great employees is one of the biggest challenges for business owners.

Whether you do it yourself or hire staffing agencies or recruiters to help, hiring can cost your business a lot of time and money.

One popular solution to recruitment issues for small businesses – internship programs.

But why is this? The simple answer is that internships offer your company a way to build a steady stream of potential employees without worrying about recruitment fees.

In fact, on average, companies ultimately offer 72% of their interns full-time employment, with nearly 80% of those choosing to sign on.

In this guide, we’ll show you why internships are an excellent way to attract great employees. 

We’ll also explore the perks of internship programs and provide insights on how to establish a successful one in your own company.

What is an internship, and why is it important?

An internship is a hands-on learning opportunity where a student gets real-world experience in a field connected to what they’re studying. 

Taking on an intern can be helpful for your business, providing extra support, helping to identify potential future employees, and offering tailored training that fits your company’s needs. 

It also gives interns a chance to decide whether a role or career is the right fit for them before making any commitments.

It’s a win-win situation for both the intern and your company!

Types of internships

Internships come in different flavors depending on a few key factors:

  • Time of year: Some internships are only available during specific seasons, like summer or winter, while others can be year-round.
  • Industry: Internships are often tailored to different industries like healthcare, finance, or technology. Depending on your industry, you can offer interns unique opportunities.
  • Paid vs unpaid internships: Some internships offer a paycheck (often minimum wage), while others provide valuable experience without financial compensation.
  • Credit vs no-credit internships: Some internships help college students earn academic credit, while others are purely for pay or experience.
  • On-location vs virtual internships: With the rise of work-from-home opportunities, remote internships can be done entirely online from your intern’s home.
  • Externships: These are shorter, less hands-on experiences, often used in healthcare and legal fields Rather than performing the work themselves, these interns shadow professionals to observe how they get the job done.

Benefits of internship programs 

Starting an internship program can be a game-changer for your business, offering a host of advantages:

Building community connections 

As a smaller business, offering internships is a fantastic opportunity to get noticed in the community. 

It’s a chance to network, increase your visibility, and show that you’re investing in the development of future talent.

Fresh perspectives and ideas

Interns often bring new, innovative viewpoints and ideas to the table.

This not only breathes fresh air into your existing workforce but also provides a unique opportunity for experienced employees to share their knowledge and bridge the skills gap. 

Plus, interns often have a knack for new technology, which can be used to boost your company’s operations, social media presence, and outreach.

Succession planning

By nurturing successful interns, you’re essentially nurturing a pool of potential future employees who are already familiar with your company’s operations, culture, and values. 

This can streamline your succession planning, saving you the costs of recruiting full time employees down the road. 

Fostering leadership skills

By encouraging your current employees to participate in intern development, you can cultivate their leadership skills.

It’s a chance for them to guide, teach, and inspire the next generation of professionals – a win-win for everyone involved.

Increased productivity

Interns can take tasks and projects off your hands, helping to boost overall productivity within your business. 

Their fresh energy and enthusiasm can lead to more efficiency and better goal attainment.

Creating an internship program 

Building an internship program is a journey that involves thoughtful planning and a dash of creativity. 

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to create an engaging and effective program:

  1. Choose an internship coordinator and assemble a committee

Begin by selecting a program coordinator or supervisor who will be responsible for overseeing the program.

It’s a good idea to form a committee of individuals who can bring different perspectives and expertise to the table.

  1. Assess your organization’s needs

When creating a great internship program, it’s also important to take a close look at your organization to figure out where interns can have the most impact. 

What projects or tasks would benefit the most from their fresh perspective, enthusiasm, and assistance?

  1. Partner with a training program or school

Establish a partnership with a training program or school that aligns with your industry and goals. Understand their expectations and processes to create a seamless collaboration.

  1. Design the program 

Now it’s time to design the internship program itself. We recommend that you take the following steps: 

  • Set clear objectives: Make sure that the goals of your internship program align with your overarching business objectives.
  • Attract the right talent: Create an attractive job description, draft an engaging job posting, and establish a hiring process that mirrors your regular employee recruitment.
  • Mentorship matters: Identify and train mentors from your experienced staff to provide guidance and support to interns.
  • Meaningful work: Make sure the interns’ work is meaningful by crafting clear internship job descriptions and defining tasks that contribute to interns’ growth.
  • Feedback loop: Develop a system for regular feedback and evaluation to help interns learn and grow.
  • Training needs: Determine what kind of training your interns need to excel in their roles, and ensure you’re setting them up for success.
  • Practical details: Decide on the practicalities like the timing, location, resources (like technology and timesheets), and whether you’ll offer unpaid or paid internships.
  • Say goodbye gracefully: If you’re not aiming to hire at the end of the internship, create a process for exit interviews to gather insights from interns about their experiences and the program’s effectiveness.
  1. Promote the program 

Craft a recruitment marketing plan to spread the word about your internship program. Consider offering incentives to attract the best talent.

  1. Navigate legalities 

Make sure that your program complies with all relevant laws and regulations, including those related to wages, insurance coverage, transportation, and other factors.

  1. Consider compensation 

Develop a compensation plan that’s fair and adheres to legal requirements. Consider the federal and state tests to determine whether interns should be paid.

Remember: Building an internship program is not just about filling roles; it’s about nurturing talent and creating a positive experience for both the interns and your organization.

The bottom line 

In today’s competitive business world, securing and retaining top talent can be tough for smaller businesses. Internship programs have emerged as a valuable solution to this challenge.

These programs bridge the gap between education and real-world experience, offering benefits for both employers and interns.

Internships come in various forms, allowing your business to adapt these programs to suit your unique requirements. 

When it comes to creating an internship program, there are some essential steps to consider including:

  • Choosing a program coordinator
  • Assessing your organization’s needs
  • Carefully designing the program
  • Effectively promoting it

Develop a successful internship program with Deliver Workforce Solutions 

Are you looking for guidance on building a top-tier internship program? At Deliver Workforce Solutions, we’re here to provide the assistance you need.

Additionally, if you require support in refining your recruitment strategy, we’re ready to lend a hand. 

Our recruitment approach encompasses aspects like employer branding, website optimization for recruiting, and leveraging various social media platforms to draw in top talent.

To schedule your complimentary consultation, please get in touch with Kathy at kathy@deliverworkforce.com or Andrea at andrea@marketingdrill.com.