Training the Next-Generation Workforce

SEMA Member News—May/June 2011 

How to Make an Internship Program Outstanding

   
Internships, whether paid or unpaid, offer a way for the industry to attract and “train up” the next-generation workforce. Connect with colleges, universities and trade-school programs to offer internships to qualified, enthusiastic students. 
     
     
How can the industry help attract and “train up” the next-generation workforce? One way is to connect with colleges, universities and trade-school programs to offer paid or unpaid internships to qualified, enthusiastic students. There is great value in offering these opportunities to students who are evaluating which industries they should pursue. And it’s also an effective way for a company to identify candidates for future employment. Moreover, it can infuse a company with new energy and innovative ideas.

But how do you structure an internship to help ensure success for your company and an intern? Let’s take a look at some of the fundamentals of a structured internship program:

What Is an Internship?

An internship is a structured and monitored work or service experience for a student. During the internship, the student should have designated learning goals and should be able to reflect upon the entire internship experience in terms of the knowledge he or she has gained. Both the student and the organization should benefit from an internship program. Internships may contain repetitive tasks but must include at least one substantial project where students can offer solutions to a real business problem.

Why Should I Host Interns?

An internship can be a cost-effective way to recruit and identify/evaluate potential employees. Highly motivated students with appropriate direction bring fresh ideas and new perspectives to an organization. An internship also allows students to gain real-world work experience, and interns may become advocates for your organization.

What Should My Intern Be Responsible For?

Be as specific as possible with job duties and responsibilities, because your intern will need and want structure. Developing a written job description and reviewing all expected work outcomes with the intern on a regular basis can accomplish this.

What Should the Intern Get Out of the Job?

The intern should solve some type of business problem for your organization as well as familiarize himself or herself with the overall efforts of the organization. The intern should accomplish challenging but realistic responsibilities.

How to Get Started

   
Highly motivated students can bring fresh ideas and new perspectives to an organization. An internship also allows students to gain real-world work experience, and interns may become advocates for your organization. 
     
     
Establish goals, and create a plan for your internship program:

  • What would you like the intern to do?
  • If the internship is a paid position, will the intern be paid an hourly wage?
  • Who will supervise the intern?
  • What kind of workspace will the intern have?

Developing a job description:

  • Will the student have a specific project to work on?
  • Provide an overview of what your organization does so potential interns better understand your
    business and industry.
  • List potential projects, responsibilities and activities for your intern.
  • Determine a possible arrangement for the structure of the internship.

Rebecca Wolfe is internship coordinator at Trulaske College of Business, University of Missouri. You can contact her via e-mail at wolfer@missouri.edu.