Designing Your Internship Program

Prior to hiring an intern, an employer must understand how interns will fit within the company’s goals and culture. Since organizations vary in age, size, industry, and product, so too will internship activities. Questions that may determine what kind of program will work best for you:

  • What does your organization hope to gain from the program?
  • Is your organization looking to fulfill a need on a specific project? Will this internship(s) encompass one major project, or entail a variety of small projects?
  • What are the tools and workspace necessary to provide the student?
  • What talents, academic background and experience do you want in an intern? Decide on qualifications early on to help you select the best candidate.
  • Who will be primarily responsible for the intern(s)? Will that person be a mentor, supervisor, or both?

Learn about prospective Interns. The best way to know what skills an intern is hoping to gain is to interview. It is important that employers realize that school and classes must remain a top priority for interns if they are a current student. The internship position should enhance their learning experience. Understand that for most interns this is a new experience and they may need support in balancing their schoolwork and internship. Agreeing on a set number of hours interns will work each week and offering flex‐time for freedom to plan their schedules on a weekly basis are two ways to support balance. Required hours/credit may vary. The student intern should meet with an academic or internship advisor for further direction. There are many ways to make the internship both memorable and engaging for both the intern and employer including the following:

Social Activities:

Whether it is employees and interns going out to lunch, or employees taking interns to a local baseball game, engaging in these activities provides a great opportunity to get to know one another on a more personal level. They also provide interns a chance to get to know other interns and employees with whom they have not worked. Many Rhode Island employers with successful internship programs state that their social activities are rated by interns as one of the top highlights of their experience.

Professional Development Activities

meetings and work with employees in other departments for a day. Provide opportunities for interns to attend career development events/seminars in the community to learn new skills.

Mid Term and Final Evaluation

An internship can only be a true learning experience if constructive feedback is provided. An effective evaluation will focus on the interns’ initial learning objectives identified at the start of the internship. Supervisors should take time to evaluate both the student’s positive accomplishments and areas for improvement. Interns will look to their mentors and/or supervisors to help them transition from the classroom to the workplace. It is recommended that mentors and/or supervisors regularly meet with interns to receive and provide feedback concerning their performance. During these meetings the students may:

  • Report on a project’s status
  • Learn how their work is contributing to the organization
  • Participate in evaluating their strengths
  • Discuss areas needing growth and development
  • Get insight about what work lies ahead

Typically supervisors are asked to evaluate interns at the midpoint and end of the internship. Employers are encouraged to review the internship with the intern before he or she leaves. Evaluations are helpful when determining.

Role of an Internship Supervisor

It’s going to be important to identify a supervisor for your intern(s) who will familiarize them with the organization, provide assignments and serve as a “contact” person for questions. It’s recommended that the intern supervisor be an expert in the type of work the intern(s) will be performing to provide the appropriate guidance for the intern’s assignments. An intern supervisor’s responsibilities will include:

  • Taking part in an intern’s application, screening, and interview process
  • Conducting intern orientation
  • Developing learning goals
  • Meeting with an intern regularly to evaluate performance and if needs/goals are being met; and assessing the internship program’s success.

Role of a Mentor

In addition to the supervisor, a mentor may assist with transition into this new learning environment. This is done by answering general questions related to personal and professional growth, and sharing career knowledge leading to networking in the field.