| 15 June, 2021 | 6 Min Read

Internship program: How to start one

Internship programs are great opportunities to develop and create connections with young people who could be great additions to your company in a few years. Interns bring to your company a fresh perspective, the desire to learn, and loads of enthusiasm. When the internship is finished, they leave with new knowledge and hands-on experience in your field.

In creating an internship program, you want to make sure you attract the right kind of talent to grow your company. But more than anything else, you want to make sure your internship program provides a win-win situation for your company and the intern.

What is an Internship Program?

An internship program is a program that offers potential employees (commonly college students) the opportunity to gain work experience related to their field of study. It gives them the opportunity to learn new skills and explore their career as they develop.

Most internships can last for three to six months. Internships can either be part-time (if offered during a university semester) or full time (if offered during the vacation period).

Internships are not mandatorily paid. However, it is advisable to offer your interns allowance as it not only makes them feel appreciated it also makes your company a more attractive option.

This article will be going over how you can create a successful internship program in your company. 

Starting an Internship Program

9 steps to build an internship program 

  1. 1
     Outline your program
  2. 2
     Appoint an internship program coordinator
  3. 3
     Identify possible activities
  4. 4
     Keep personal errands to a minimum
  5. 5
     Sort out intern onboarding
  6. 6
     Get each intern a personal mentor
  7. 7
     Set goals for your interns
  8. 8
     Create a suitable feedback structure
  9. 9
     Keep communication lines open

1. Outline your program

Consider what you’re trying to achieve with the internship program and what the interns stand to gain. With this in mind, create a mission statement that succinctly but accurately describes your internship program. Your mission statement should tell internship applicants exactly what to expect from working with your company.

2. Appoint an internship program coordinator

Having a program coordinator ensures that both your company and the interns get the most out of the experience. The person will be in charge of the recruitment, supervision, and overall development of the interns. Ensure to clearly communicate your expectations to this person – their roles, time commitment, and tasks.

Junior employees are better suited to this task than upper management employees because it should be easier for them to plan, collaborate, and design a program for the young generation, mostly Gen-Zers.

3. Identify possible activities

Make a list of all the activities your interns will be doing. As you make this list, keep in mind that every task must benefit both the interns and your company in some way. The intern should gain new knowledge and experience by doing real work and the company should get a problem solved.

Take note that these activities could also be your leverage to attract potential candidates. For example, interns will attend monthly training or one-on-one coaching with their mentor.

4. Keep personal errands to a minimum

Interns are convenient to have around the office, but it would be best if you kept personal errands to a minimum. Use their talents for meaningful work.

Let all your employees know this as well. You could even send out a memo highlighting tasks that are acceptable for interns to carry out. Interns are in your company to learn, not to run errands for your full-time employees.

5. Sort out intern onboarding 

How do you welcome interns? What should they do on their first day? Which documents should they read? Create an onboarding checklist to make sure you answer these questions. A good onboarding process can get your new interns impressed with your company's professionalism and catch up to the job quicker. 

Plus, you need to think through and organize intern workspaces, equipment, and supplies. You also need to decide and communicate to them how many hours you will require of them every week and for how many weeks. Put these requirements in your job descriptions so you won't waste time on unqualified candidates.

Grove HR - onboarding task




Pro tip: you can use Grove HR to set up customized onboarding checklists and send your new interns a video welcome before their first day.





6. Get each intern a personal mentor

Providing each intern with a personal mentor encourages on-the-job support and feedback. This position is best suited to junior-level employees who are in the same generation as interns. Therefore, they can create a relaxed relationship and foster professional development. This relaxed relationship may not be possible with upper management staff simply because interns may not feel comfortable asking them certain questions.

7. Set goals for your interns

An excellent way to track your interns' progress is to set OKRs or goals for their internship duration. One good way of doing this is to get them involved with specific projects or campaigns based on their learning objectives. The most important thing is that there is a definite start, middle, and finish to their work.

8. Create a suitable feedback structure

Giving continuous feedback to your interns is essential to progress – yours and theirs. Feedback structures or frequency will vary depending on what your business needs. For example, you can set up a weekly check-in meeting to review their performance and give constructive feedback so that you can see their improvement week by week.

But the important thing is to ensure that your interns are not being overburdened and that they are advancing towards meeting your goals.

9. Keep communication lines open

When the internship program comes to an end, you want to maintain some form of communication with former interns. This will allow you to reconnect in the future and possibly offer them a full-time role after graduation.


Over to you

These steps are to serve as a guide on what to do and perhaps what to avoid when creating an internship program and dealing with interns. Generally, how you end up conducting your internship program will be specific to your business and what it needs.

Overall, it is important to make the entire experience beneficial to your company and the interns. The intern should leave your internship program with a wealth of information and hands-on experience that they didn’t have before.

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