Entrepreneurs seeking to grow their business often reach the point where hiring others becomes necessary. I always encourage people to start with the 5 hour assistant. But, what about interns? “Free labor” can be quite enticing. But, what is REALLY involved with hiring interns? It’s not as simple as hiring the local college kid to file your paperwork. There are number of companies that are hiring interns illegally and getting caught.
Let’s review the US Department of Labor’s 6 criteria for hiring unpaid interns:
- The training, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to what would be given in a vocational school or academic educational instruction;
- The training is for the benefit of the trainees;
- The trainees do not displace regular employees, but work under their close observation;
- The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the trainees, and on occasion the employer’s operations may actually be impeded;
- The trainees are not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the training period; and
- The employer and the trainees understand that the trainees are not entitled to wages for the time spent in training.
The USDoL goes on to say that if a person meets all 6 criteria they are a “trainee.”
The first one is critical: “The training, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to what would be given in a vocational school or academic educational instruction.” Your interns must receive an EDUCATIONAL EXPERIENCE. In other words, you must have a curriculum in place that would be similar to what they would get in the classroom.
Here are some questions to ask yourself before taking on an intern:
- Do you have systems and processes in place that enable you to create an intern program?
- If you were creating a college curriculum on your business what would it entail?
- How much time would the “class time” pull you away from daily operations of your business? (When you hire an intern, you take on the role of teacher in addition to all the other roles you have in your business.)
- Is your business strong enough that you can justify the cost of having an intern? (#4 on the DOL criteria emphasizes that the burden – cost – of the internship program is on the business owner, not the intern.)
- Do you enjoy educating, teaching, training, leading?
Still think an intern is a good fit for you and your business? Come back tomorrow and I’ll share my tips for how to create an internship program.