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Janet Boston, Executive Director - 8/31/2011
Source: http://www.insideindianabusiness.com/contributors.asp?ID=2049

Interns bring all sorts of benefits for organizations, including reduced recruiting costs, a fresh and innovative perspective, as well as the ability to work on projects that might be on the backburner. Companies or human resources directors just thinking about getting a program started, however, should understand some important preparations and steps to take prior to posting the “intern help wanted” ad.

First, decide whether your company will be hosting an intern only occasionally, or if you’re planning to launch a full internship program. While either strategy is better than no interns at all, the program approach is a planned, formal method of integrating students into the workforce and incorporating actual work experience with their academic studies.

An internship program should include an application, recruiting, screening and an interview process, a structured orientation, an assigned internship supervisor and mentor, as well as a chance to reflect, evaluate and assess the internship.

Evaluating several aspects of what your company can offer for an internship program is important; including:
· how long internships will last;
· the number of interns needed;
· if there is an appropriate number of staff available to support the interns;
· if there is enough meaningful work to assign to them; and
· if the company has the physical and financial resources to support them.

It may seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be.

Joseph Goepfrich, CFRE, vice president for development for the Marshall County Community Foundation (MCCF), oversees the internship program in his organization. MCCF is just one of thousands of companies utilizing Indiana INTERNnet to help meet its intern needs.

“We have had a wonderful experience with our interns up to this point. We did treat it like any other employee position. There was an interview, a formal application process … and we found the best match,” he acknowledges.

Goefprich’s No. 1 piece of advice for other companies looking into starting an internship program: Start planning immediately.

“When you are given the opportunity, you need to put a plan together,” he declares. “You have to have a plan in place for good supervision, good rapport with younger people and make sure that person feels as comfortable as any other employee in your organization.”

Treating the intern like any other employee – though under the guidance of a mentor or supervisor – is a major approach for keeping them involved in the organization.

“You have to have a supervisor for the interns; they have to have somebody they can go to when they have questions and someone they feel comfortable going to,” Goepfrich notes.

“It’s also important when you hire the interns that you have an appropriate orientation system on the first day. One of the things I did, I gave them some specific things to read regarding policies of the company and asked them to make sure they took about 10 or 15 minutes with each person in the company and learn what they do. Then they became part of the team.”

Goepfrich stresses that avoiding the pitfall of not giving interns meaningful project work is just as important as planning the whole program.

“Make sure you have enough for the intern to do. Do not assign them to be just filers of papers, where they have no effort to put forth – no opportunity to put forth the knowledge they have,” he explains. “Give them a bit of a challenge. Don’t assume they are not capable of the task, but not so (difficult a task) that they can’t see success.”

You don’t have to go it alone – Indiana INTERNnet offers assistance for companies considering launching or expanding an internship program.

During workplace presentations, we will guide your organization (no matter its size or industry) through the internship program process. We also will provide various helpful resources to support your program, including our newly updated web site, www.indianaintern.net.

Over 4,400 companies are currently registered with Indiana INTERNnet, with 1,851 positions available through the web site and 3,737 students actively searching for internships. In total, 17,208 students are registered – a large and diverse pool of talent that we should be working to retain in Indiana.

A monthly electronic newsletter and several publications, including the Indiana Employer’s Guide to Internships, are available through the Indiana INTERNnet web site. Staff is also available to answer all questions by phone or e-mail.

For more tips and advice or to register, visit the web site or call (866) 646-3434.