Article by Mia Husfeld - Employers Group Helpline Consultant & Trainer
An internship is a supervised on-the-job-learning experience related to a student’s career interest. A good internship will provide invaluable opportunities for a young person to learn about the work world and a particular industry or discipline.
Value to employers
There is no doubt that employers also benefit from the internship experience. Interns can provide immediate short-term help to support projects that otherwise would be put in the back burner. Interns’ enthusiasm and desire to learn can also energize a department or a project. Most importantly, interns are an effective recruiting tool for the company.
Value for interns
So how do we distinguish if a position should be a short-term job opportunity or an internship? First there should be the intentional learning agenda that the intern, in agreement with the employer, brings to the experience. Secondly, the work is career- related for the student, and thirdly, the intern receives feedback of their work from the supervisor. If all the above holds true, the position would qualify as an internship.
Before bringing in an intern, we must educate the supervisor about their role. The supervisor’s role is to act as a role model, trainer, and mentor. They will assist the student(s) make the connections between the world of work and the importance of doing well in school.
There are several steps along the way, such as starting off by explaining the company’s expectations. They will provide training, mentoring and ongoing guidance, as well as continual feedback on performance. For feedback, the supervisor should meet with the student on a regular basis, review what each sees as progress, define areas that still needed for improvement, and focus on what the student is doing right rather than what he/she is doing wrong.
A supervisor can speak from experience about the relevance of school work and how some of the skills they are learning in school can be applied on the job every day. They will show the student the importance of teamwork and the role everyone plays in the company. But most importantly, the supervisor must be available when the intern is working and, if he/she is not available, designate someone to assist the intern in their absence.
Upfront communication from HR
The key to a successful internship is to develop clear expectations, skills to be mastered and projects or tasks to be accomplished. HR must clarify the internship responsibilities with the student, and direct the supervisor before the internship beings. Just like new employees, student interns benefit from a thorough orientation of the workplace.
Three items need to be stressed during orientation:
• the importance of nondisclosure/confidentiality as it applies to the department,
• the importance of conduct rules and reasons for immediate termination of internship, and
• the safety rules and emergency procedures, including the location of emergency exits, fire extinguisher and first aid kits.
The student’s orientation should take place on the first day, and be clear and specific. The company should also understand the students’ goals and objectives in joining the internship program.
The average work schedule for internships during the academic year ranges from 8 to 20 hours per week. During the summer, internships often range from 10 to 40 hours per week. It is important for students and employers to discuss the work schedule together and develop a plan that will meet both their needs.
As a reminder, if the student is below 18 years of age, a work permit is required and you will need to follow the child labor laws according to a student’s specific age. It is also important to set a specific duration of time the internship will last. If the employer and student wish to extend the internship, they can renegotiate this when the first work period is completed.
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