To ensure your interns get valuable exposure to the different areas of your organization, consider developing an internship program schedule populated with activities for interns to connect more deeply with the company, build skills, and bond with one another.

One of the keys to developing an effective internship program schedule is to start early. It takes time to develop a comprehensive schedule, and to enlist the people and obtain the resources you need. A reasonable allotment of time is five to six months so you will be ready when your interns arrive.

Following are more tips for developing and implementing an internship program schedule:

  • Develop an orientation—This could include a welcome from your CEO, a team-building activity for interns, time with managers to review specific objectives and see the work area, sessions such as an assessment focused on communication styles and time management, and more.
  • Plan a community project for interns—If you do a group project, be sure to include on the schedule the weekly meetings and the final presentation to senior management. Send invitations to all attendees as early as possible to ensure strong attendance.
  • Look to have an event at least once a week—Be sensitive to any days the interns may be tied up with normal work events, e.g., interns may have work assignments every Wednesday and Thursday, so schedule intern events for Mondays, Tuesdays, or Fridays.
  • Plan events during which interns will be all together so they can bond—Be sure to plan at least one big social event. Invite the interns’ assigned mentors or buddies when appropriate.
  • Understand what the interns need to be successful—Don’t just develop the skills they need for their internships, but for the long-term as well. Provide interns with skills they can use in the real world or if they join the organization full time. For example, offer weekly leadership skills training, which could include sessions on personal accountability, communication skills, and presentation skills.
  • Ask your training and development team what training it has that would be beneficial for the interns—If they don’t have anything that fits, see if they can build it. This is one of the reasons why you should start early. Doing so gives your training and development team the time to develop training if needed.
  • See what training, presentations, or other events the organization as a whole is offering during the intern program—Incorporate into your internship program schedule organization-wide events, such as company picnics and “lunch-and-learns.”
  • Get management involved—Invite your president, CEO, and senior management team to participate in intern orientation and events. They may be available to host an executive reception during the first week. Book these dates as early as possible to ensure a good turnout.
  • Set dates for interns’ mid-term and final evaluations—Set goals and expectations, and provide interns with honest assessments of their performance. Send reminders the week before meetings so the evaluations are completed.
  • Include a “Shadowing Day”—Giving your interns an opportunity to shadow an employee gives interns exposure to another potential career path within your organization.