Will Work for College Credit: Creating an Internship Program

With the fall semester right around the corner, students are actively seeking internships. Reap some knowledge from a bright, young mind and train the next generation of talent…

Hiring the next generation of workers is often recommended as a competitive edge, especially to companies who market or sell to the youth demographic. However, you may still hesitate to take on unproven talent or fresh college graduates. A 2010 survey by the Association of American Colleges and Universities shows your concerns are shared as 73% of employers felt that more emphasis should be placed on students’ “ability to apply knowledge and skills to real-world settings through internships and other hands-on experiences”. Creating your own internship program is a great way to be a part of the solution, but to generate real value for your organization and the student you must go beyond posting an entry-level position as an unpaid internship.

So how do you create a mutually beneficial internship program? First, it’s important to know that the Fair Labor Standards Act defines criteria for internship positions and states that in addition to giving the student an opportunity to work in their field, you must provide instruction that is “similar to training which could be given in an educational environment”. So, you should choose departments and positions that support the dual goal of teaching a student new skills and benefiting from their existing knowledge and new point of view.

Second, you have to carefully consider compensation guidelines. While unpaid internships are legal so long as you adhere to the FLSA standards, some compensation in addition to college credit may help you recruit more of a rising star than a dimming bulb. If you can’t provide an hourly wage, be sure you can provide even more praise, feedback, and the occasional bookstore gift card to keep your student motivated.

Now you need to find a source of interns. Start by contacting local colleges who offer programs pursuant to your business. The academic counselors of relevant departments can help you post a position or find an intern that matches your criteria. Internships are typically required of students in human resources, business administration, journalism and public relations. You might even go out to a job fair or two which doubles as an opportunity to market your business.

Once your intern is in place be sure you are closely monitoring their progress and also upholding your end of the bargain. Who knows, your next CEO may start out in the accounting file room!