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Employee Communication: All Aboard the USS Internship Program

19 June 2018
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For some high school and college students, summer is the time to get away from the regimens of classes, lectures and “school” life. For others, the 8-12 week period is the doorway to firsthand experiences of employee communication in real-world employment. Although some organizations offer internship programs year-round, summer is the peak season for intern endeavors.

So exactly what is an intern? The Oxford Dictionary defines it as “A student or trainee who works, sometimes without pay, in order to gain work experience or satisfy requirements for a qualification.” Medical and dental interns are in a category by themselves. The United States Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division lays out its definitions for unpaid internships and students.

There are many permutations of internship programs. There are programs that work, and those that are disastrous. There are industries where internships lead to jobs and better employee communication, and companies that have terrific programs. Interns populate both small and large companies, and what they do can vary from handling coffee runs to making meaningful contributions. Whatever the case might be, Human Resources can play a strong role in the development, maintenance and improvement of intern programs. A valuable tip is to have the intern interviews mirror the types of interviews used to hire regular employees.

Where’s the Beginning for Employee Communications?

Sharlyn Lauby, an HR pro who became a consultant, wrote an article for her blog site HR Bartender revealing several valuable tips on how intern programs can thrive. Here are a few that emphasize recruitment, talent, and employee communication.

  • Determine the company’s point of view about internships. Program support extends from the top down. The interns bring fresh energy and ideas to the table, and the company brings knowledge and experience to eager minds.
  • Create meaningful work. To use an intern wholly for massive photocopying, mail delivery and paperwork filing is dreary and won’t encourage that person to return to the company seeking full-time employment.
  • Confront the pay issue. There are rules in place for unpaid work, just as there are for paid work. If it’s a completely unpaid position, make that clear. If it’s for school credit, make that clear. And if it’s paid, be clear about how much.

Where’s the Excitement?

Whether it’s a department manager or a Human Resources manager, supervising an internship program can be daunting. It is not for the faint of heart. But it can, in the best cases, provide a learning experience for people who will be part of the talent pool in the not-too-distant future. So what are the top companies for internships? Here’s the top five, in reverse order:

  • Google
  • Newell Brands (office and household products like Paper Mate pens)
  • CohnReznick (accounting and tax advice)
  • Enterprise Rent-a-Car
  • Under Armour (athletic wear)

All of these intern programs are paid. While the usual pay rates are somewhere between $10-23 an hour, the internships at Google are in a completely different class. Software engineering interns make over $6,600 a month.

Where’s the Work?

There are industries in which an internship can realistically lead to a job offer. Business Insider’s ÁineCain presents the findings. Here are the top ten industries that hire interns, with the percentage per industry for interns to become employees:

  • Accounting: 55%
  • Semiconductors: 43%
  • Management Consulting: 38%
  • Computer Software: 36%
  • Civil Engineering: 34%
  • Information and Technology: 33%
  • Internet: 33%
  • Aviation and Aerospace: 32%
  • Defense and Space: 32%
  • Retail: 32%

Who’s the (Gulp) Intern Boss?

Whether you’re a specific department manager or an HR manager, there are things to keep in mind while manning (or womaning) the helm of the USS Intern Program. Ashley Mosley, a Community Manager at InternMatch wrote an article for The Huffington Post entitled How to be an Awesome Intern Manager. These tips will not only aid the person at the helm (captain?), but also will prove useful to everyone in the company as simple employee communication advice:

  • Be a superhero: share your knowledge, educate, prompt curiosity, and play many roles, from supervisor to gatekeeper
  • Assign one “Big Picture” Project: there should be one long-term project for the intern team. It might be a marketing or social media campaign or even a website. They gain knowledge, and will create something good for their resumes and portfolios.
  • Set weekly goals that can be quantified. Not only will you learn your interns’ strengths and weaknesses, so will they.
  • Meet every week. Discuss how projects are going. Everyone knows the one-and-a-half-hour meeting that should take 20 minutes. So keep it to 20 minutes unless something big is happening.
  • Find out what your interns’ interests are. What they are capable of could be different then what impassions them. The hapless abstract expressionistic painter might actually be an anime artist in hiding.
  • Show your interns the big picture: the company, the industry, the effect on the world.
  • Help your interns network. Experienced employees know how invaluable networking is. Show them how.
  • Don’t. Forget. Fun. Never underestimate the value of fun in a workday. It might be some kind of “field trip” or two big pizzas for lunch, hold the anchovies.

So. Interns are coming. Take a deep breath. Rock on.

Joetta L. Wagner

Joetta L. Wagner is a researcher, writer and editor extraordinaire with over 20 years' experience. She absorbs information like a sponge absorbs water, and has been known to dazzle cocktail party patrons with an endless array of collected factoids. Her ruthlessness as an editor is an acquired skill.

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