10 Benefits of Starting an Intern Program

SEMA Member News—March/April 2014

10 Benefits of Starting an Intern Program

Contributed by www.internships.com

You’ve mulled it over with management. It’s consistently on the agenda at meetings. And you know that even—especially—small- and medium-sized companies are already reaping huge rewards. In fact, you’ve been contemplating creating a program for months—even years.You’ve mulled it over with management. It’s consistently on the agenda at meetings. And you know that even—especially—small- and medium-sized companies are already reaping huge rewards. In fact, you’ve been contemplating creating a program for months—even years.

But you’ve yet to actually take the next step and start an internship program at your organization.

Hopefully, that’s about to change. Consider these internship statistics from the National Association of Colleges and Employers’ (NACE) Experiential Education Survey:

  • 67.7% of interns were offered fulltime positions.
  • 83.6% of these offers were accepted.
  • 35.3% of employers’ fulltime, entry-level college hires came from their internship programs.

If we look at internships from a solution-based perspective, it’s good news as well. Because, essentially, the primary needs of small- to medium-sized businesses are twofold:

   1. Effectively managing workflow to accomplish immediate objectives.

   2. Finding new team members to help grow the business and accomplish future (i.e., larger, more lucrative) objectives.

Setting up an internship program meets both needs simultaneously. But let’s examine the specific benefits in more detail.

   1. Find future employees. An internship program is a year-round recruiting tool. Implementing an internship program means you have an ongoing pipeline of future fulltime employees through fall, summer, semester and quarterly internships.

For many, the process of recruiting and hiring is a drain on company resources. One solution: Appeal to tomorrow’s staff members when they’re looking for internships, and all you have to do is choose the best of the bunch when it comes time to hire.

Moreover, college campuses are viral societies. This means that word will quickly spread if your organization impresses one class of interns. Soon you’ll find that the most sought-after student talent is interested in working with you.

   2. Test-drive the talent. It’s a human resources reality: A new employee makes a solid impression in the interview but then just doesn’t gel with your current team or your company’s way of doing things. Because of this, hiring someone as an intern is the most effective way to evaluate his or her potential as a fulltime employee. When you “try out” candidates via a semester or summer internship, you make fewer mistakes when it comes to fulltime staffing; you avoid the pitfall of training new hires only to find out that they don’t fit your organization or that an entry-level employee doesn’t like the field. Starting an internship program lets you benefit from added manpower while more accurately assessing candidates.

   3. Increase productivity. Setting up an internship program allows you to take advantage of short-term support. An extra set of hands helps your employees be more productive, prevents them from becoming overburdened by side projects and frees them up to accomplish more creative tasks or those where higher-level, strategic thinking or expertise is required.

   4. Increase employee-retention rate. The proof for the test-driving theory is in positive employee-retention figures. According to NACE’s 2009 Experiential Education Survey, almost 40% of employers reported a higher five-year retention rate among employees they’d hired via their internship programs.

   5. Enhance perspective. It’s not just the extra sets of hands that make interns advantageous. Especially in an organization of only 12 or 15 employees, new people bring with them novel perspectives, fresh ideas and specialized strengths and skill sets. These augment the abilities of your professional workforce.

   6. Take advantage of low-cost labor. Interns are an inexpensive resource. Their salaries are significantly lower than staff employees, and you aren’t obligated to pay unemployment or a severance package should you not hire them fulltime. Moreover, while their wage requirements are modest, they’re among the most highly motivated members of the workforce.

   7. Find free of charge. Sites such as Internships.com allow you to post your employer profile completely free of charge. This means that you get extensive exposure to the top colleges and candidates without putting a dent in your recruiting budget. Additionally, SEMA can help connect you directly with many automotive-related colleges and universities. For a partial list of SEMA educational partnerships, visit www.sema.org/futures.

   8. Give back to the community. Small businesses are likely to rely on community support. Creating an internship program is an excellent way to give back. Hiring interns helps students in your community get started while enhancing the local workforce as a whole.

   9. Support students. Internships provide students with numerous perks. They gain experience, develop skills, make connections, strengthen their resumes, learn about a field and assess their interests and abilities. Offering a paid internship is particularly beneficial, because it enables economically disadvantaged youth to participate. Students who have to help fund their own schooling need jobs, regardless. Providing an internship allows that job to facilitate a positive future.

   10. Benefit your small business. When looking for fulltime work, the top talents often go for big-name businesses. But when seeking internships, learning is the leading draw. Many candidates feel that they’ll get more hands-on training, real experience and mentoring opportunities with smaller organizations.

Employer takeaway: In terms of both today’s workload and tomorrow’s workforce, starting an internship program is an excellent way to facilitate success at your small- or medium-sized business.

Contact SEMA Education Director Zane Clark (zanec@sema.org) for more details on how to best connect with SEMA’s educational partners.