How To Build a Robust Internship Program

The Consumer Technology Association has built a vibrant internship program that’s more than tripled in size over the last decade. Here are a few elements that have been critical to its success.

The Consumer Technology Association (CTA) has a robust internship program—and it’s grown as the organization has grown. In 2010, the organization had 10 interns; now, it has 31 interns across many different verticals, from marketing to government affairs to IT.

“As CTA grows and our portfolio of business grows, the need for staff to help support business and help manage these really impactful projects continues to grow,” said CTA Senior Manager of Human Capital Loren Wray. “And we need more resources to do that, and many times we extend [those opportunities] out to the intern group.”

In other words, CTA really relies on its interns to push its organization forward. “We’re part of the innovation industry—the tech industry—and by nature, that’s always changing, and so our ability to be able to keep up with the changes means that some of the more administrative projects are handed off to these interns, and for them, it’s new—it’s a growth opportunity,” Wray said.

But CTA’s internship program isn’t one-sided. The organization also aims to give interns a rewarding experience, while also searching out future full-time staff. In fact, 20 percent of CTA’s staff started out as interns. “For us, it’s a labor of love, but it’s one that really generates return,” she said.

Here are a few components that CTA has found critical in building its successful internship program:

Build relationships with local colleges. With its location in the Washington, DC, metropolitan area, CTA is positioned near some top caliber colleges and universities, and Wray said it’s important to build relationships with them to create brand awareness and to ensure your organization is top-of-mind among career counselors. “I’ve seen such a change in our intern classes since we’ve been doing that,” she said. “The kids get smarter every year, they’re more motivated, and they’re easy for me to hire, which is the trademark of a good internship program.”

Offer competitive benefits. “When you look at a market like DC—it’s one of the most competitive employment markets in the country,” Wray said. “And if you’re going to bring in interns that are the most competitive interns, just like staff, you have to provide the best opportunities for them—and we like to do that.” For CTA, that means offering interns competitive pay, healthcare, and extras like flexible work schedules to promote a positive work-life balance, one-on-one time with the CEO, invitations to CTA events, and access to a gym and fitness opportunities, among others.

Create a meaningful experience. Wray works with each of CTA’s departments to ensure that they’re offering the interns a good and substantive experience, and one way that they do that is by offering longer-term internships that range from six months to one year. After a three-month internship, interns tend to “know where the good coffee is … how to work the printer,” but they’re not typically invested in a project. A longer internship allows the opportunity to start a project and see it through to its culmination, Wray explained.

“When we say that we give people the opportunity to work on projects within an internship that will make them into real professionals, that’s not lip service, that’s really and truly what they get with this internship program,” Wray said.

What’s the secret sauce in your internship program? Please leave your comments below.

(relif/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Emily Bratcher

By Emily Bratcher

Emily Bratcher is a Contributing Editor for Associations Now. MORE

Got an article tip for us? Contact us and let us know!