Employing Interns

Mutual Benefit for Your Business & the Interns

by Mark Henricks

Interns are highly motivated, low cost, temporary workers who can help with short-term staffing needs while also positioning businesses to expand and improve their full-time permanent workforce.

A Different Kind of Education

An intern is generally a college student who is doing a one-time stint of working at a company in a field related to the student's major or career objectives. The idea is to give the student training and real-world practical experience to supplement classroom education.

Internships typically last a few months, such as a semester or over summer vacation. This makes interns useful for filling in short-term needs for help with specific projects.

A Good Source of Future Workers

Offering internships provides many employers with a unique opportunity to identify desirable workers by giving them what is essentially a test drive before making an offer of permanent employment.

When the internship is completed, many companies offer full-time employment to interns whose performance has met expectations. This is the real payoff for these programs, because former interns tend to be more productive and experience lower turnover rates as permanent employees than hires who have not worked for the company as trainees.

A Cost-Effective Process

Interns can save an organization money, because, typically, they are paid less than permanent employees. As temporary employees, they also may not qualify for the same benefits offered to permanent workers.

Employers generally start recruiting apprentices several months before they will be needed. This can be done by contacting college internship offices or by publicly advertising a position. Many interns attend local colleges that offer good quality programs teaching the skills that the business demands.

They often do entry-level tasks, such as clerical work and data entry as well as analytical chores, information-gathering, and communications.

A Word to the Wise

While temporary trainees can be valuable additions to a business's team, there are caveats to consider. The primary risk is when employers offer unpaid internships. Students are often willing to work for free in return for the opportunity to learn and gain contacts. However, it's possible to run afoul of federal wage laws. Businesses can minimize or avoid this risk by paying interns at least the prevailing minimum wage.

A Source of Competitive Advantage

One final benefit of internships is that they can help small and mid-sized employers to compete for talent with larger firms. Candidates often see training at smaller firms as being more likely to provide opportunities for doing meaningful work and gaining valuable skills.

From the employer's perspective, internships provide an opportunity to get in ahead of big-name employers and cost-effectively develop relationships with ambitious and talented up-and-comers before they are actually on the job market. It offers a unique way to economically and effectively support both short-term and long-term staffing objectives. These training programs can also bring in candidates who may be able to provide fresh ideas, different perspectives, and specialized skill sets, which can benefit your organization.

About This Author

Mark Henricks is a freelance journalist covering business, entrepreneurship, technology, personal finance, health and fitness  for leading publications.


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