Yesterday, we talked about the 6 requirements that the Department of Labor requires when employing interns. The one that people always seem to miss is the most critical: Internships MUST be educational in nature. Make sure to revisit yesterday’s post and review 5 questions you should ask yourself BEFORE hiring an intern.
Today, I want to get into the 5 things you should do to create an internship program in your business. Being able to hire an intern gives you “free labor” but you have to do it the right way. (KEEP IN MIND: you will want to ensure that 6 criteria for hiring unpaid interns is being fulfilled.)
5 MUST-DO’s to create an internship program:
1 – Get Systems & Processes in Order
A solid roadmap you have of your business will show you which responsibilities you’d like an intern to take on. Also, having systems in place will enable you to establish “lessons” in order to fulfill the education component.
2 – Create Curriculum
From your systems, you should be able to develop a curriculum for your trainee. When you hire an intern you become a teacher. I like to think of this in the context of a college course. Let’s say your internship is 16 weeks long. What sort of lesson plan will you have each week?
You’ll want to create a structure that has “class time” and then the “application of the lesson”. In other words, you will teach the trainee and then they will apply the lesson to some aspect of your business. (This is where you get the benefit from the internship program. You give, you receive.)
3 – Create finite timing to your internship
The Department of Labor will want to see that your internships have a term (a defined beginning and end.) You wouldn’t take a college course that lasted an indefinite amount of time, would you? This is a good thing. Internships can be incredibly beneficial to small businesses when done the right way. But, it also requires a great deal from the trainer. The trainer’s focus becomes the education of the intern and is often pulled away from their regular work.
4 – Get approval of your internship program from a college
This is optional. The Department of Labor doesn’t require that you have approval from an accredited college, but it will help you in the following ways:
- It helps establish your credibility in the eyes of the Department of Labor (if USC signs off on your internship program, the DOL would have a hard time saying “this isn’t educational enough”.) This is especially true if your interns can get college credit for their experience while working for your company. (NOTE: if you want this to be a pivotal part of your program, seek college requirements of intern programs PRIOR to setting up yours.)
- It helps put you in contact with eligible recruits at colleges. It also enables you to use the college’s resources to find good interns.
- It substantiates your internship program to recruits. It gives your company a college’s “stamp of approval”. (“We approve of this internship at XYZ planning company!”)
5 – Try it, fine tune it. Document it, systemize it.
Give it a whirl! It you’re a little gun-shy about the experience, keep it simple. Offer a 4 week internship on blogging. Establish your curriculum, hire an intern, and try it out. EVALUATE, EVALUATE, EVALUATE. What is working? What is not working? Could there be better lessons? More lessons? More hands-on work?
Lastly, document the program and systemize it. By systemizing this program, it should become something that requires less and less of your time. Why recreate the wheel with every new intern?
My biggest note of caution:
The intern program becomes your focus – at least in the beginning while you’re establishing the internship program. Make sure that you enjoy teaching. You may spend more time on creating the internship program than your own business. But after you’ve systemized the process it becomes less time-consuming on you. And, the added help from an intern can lighten your load tremendously.
Want to learn more? Make sure to check out The People Plan for more hiring, training, and managing tools for your business.