5 Keys to Building a Rockstar College Internship Program

As a business owner, I have a dream.

That dream is to be able to hire experienced workers who don’t require much training and who are ready to jump in with work experience and a can-do attitude.  The dream is for our workers to do everything exactly how we would do ourselves and with the same care, productivity and passion.  My dream is to hire the best candidate for the role I have to fill especially when it comes to the Intern.

The reality, however, is that colleges and universities need to meet the needs of not only employers but for the workforce they are training. A key step in making this dream a reality is to build a successful college internship program that allows students to have real world training.

College Internship Program Benefits

According to the National Society for Experiential Education, internship programs benefit employers in multiple ways, including:

  • Raising visibility of your company on campuses
  • Gaining a year-round source of motivated potential employees
  • Creating a flexible and low-cost workforce that doesn’t require long-term employment
  • Creating a proven way to recruit and evaluate future employees
  • Bringing in new perspectives from students who can look at old problems in new ways

So, how can you create a successful college internship program that benefits your company and possible future employees? Take a look at VMware’s college internship program.

Not only does this company offer students a paid internship position, it also offers perks like one-on-one mentorship, business lunch chats, Q&As with the executive, application development contests and positions on meaningful projects at the company. All of these add value to potential interns.

Interns also get “weekly social bashes, free snacks and beverages, game and relaxation rooms, employee discounts, transportation reimbursements, subsidized cafes and fitness facilities, conveniences such as dry cleaning and car washes, and composting & recycling programs.” They live a pretty rockstar life and are provided a good salary, housing and transportation to and from work and home during their college internship program with VMware. I could go for some internship benefits and perks like this.

Where do I sign up?

AT&T is also a powerhouse in recruiting student interns. Their student website provides use easy tools to find internship positions in whatever field of study they are focusing on, a recruitment schedule and a career services resource page to help them apply. AT&T makes it easy for students to find them and apply for internships.

How to Hire an Intern

If you are just starting a college internship program at your business or looking to hire an intern, follow these five steps:

  • Set goals. Be clear about what your company hopes to achieve from the program. Do you need additional help for a project or is your company growing quickly? Can you provide a rewarding experience to students?  Be sure the program goals are clear to all involved and draft your internship program around those goals.
  • Put your plan on paper. Once you’ve established clear goals for the internship program, write it out. This is what college administrators, interns, career centers will read about the internship, so the job description should clearly explain duties and expectations.
  • Establish a recruitment plan. Get out there early if you want the best interns and start searching three to six months before you need a student to start working. Start to develop relationships with the college career centers and recruitment agencies. Promote the opportunity with colleges at internship fairs and place ads in the school newspapers. Choose your interns as carefully as you would choose a full-time employee.
  • Mentor the intern. They are not simply cheap labor. Either establish an orientation program for the intern or give them a tour and overview of the organization. Try to make him or her feel at home by introducing co-workers and giving him or her a place to work. Be sure to also give the intern the resources she or he needs to succeed. If you stick them in a hallway or move them from desk to desk, you run the risk of sending out the message that they aren’t important. Be sure to check in on the intern’s daily duties and watch for signs that the intern is bored or confused. Be a mentor.
  • Provide evaluations. Whether you evaluate weekly or only during an exit interview, you need to show that both the company and the student is getting a return on the investment. Show what was accomplished, the contributions made and what changes need to occur. Be sure to get feedback from the intern as well on how to improve the internship program.

Once you have the steps in place, join online resources for intern programs. A great example is the University of Texas Austin’s Lyndon B. Johnson Center for Public Affairs’ career resources page. This online resource lists all the companies associated through the college that offer internships.

Where did you find your last college intern? What did you learn from them?

Learn more best practices on creating a rockstar intern and college recruiting program by joining our webinar on 3/14/13 at 11 AM CST.  Click here for more. 

Photo Credit BigStock Photo

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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell (@jmillermerrell) is a workplace change agent, author and consultant focused on human resources and talent acquisition living in Austin, TX. Recognized by Forbes as a top 50 social media influencer and is a global speaker. She’s the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource and host of the Workology Podcast.


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