Internship Kick-Start, Part Two: What Your Internship Program Needs to Succeed

Internship programs require foresight in both the promotion and planning processes—and the answer to a crucial question.

‌This is day two of our internship series. Check out day one, on why associations should consider internship programs, day three, on managing interns effectively, and day four, on managing interns remotely.

So you understand the value of internship programs. Your next question is probably: Where do you start?

Much of this comes down to the basic organization, structure, and process. So with that in mind, here’s our next mini-guide: What your internship program needs to succeed.

Who Should Run Your Internship Program?

For this role, it is important to have a supervisor who can manage the program and navigate the process internally. The person in this role, who might be called an intern program coordinator, will help follow interns and manage their progress and may be hands-on in their management.

Additionally, Business News Daily recommends giving each intern a mentor who can offer personalized feedback and structure on a daily basis, so that all interns can gain a stronger understanding of how things work.

The goal here is to help make sure the program stays educational, even as it fills your association’s strategic goals.

Building a Pipeline

While the day-to-day management of interns is important, so is the recruiting process, which will require building a pipeline.

This process will involve a degree of promotion, including reaching out to schools to identify possible candidates.

Many associations have a great starting point in the form of student chapters, which can create a natural hotbed of recruitment for not only your association but also member companies; it’s a tactic that organizations such as the American Association of University Women have leveraged.

Sarah Sladek, the founder and CEO of XYZ University, said that student chapters can help uncover ideas for interns—but they can also help shape what your eventual program will look like in action.

“Actually getting that feedback and leveraging that student chapter to help with that internship development and promotion, I think that’s absolutely key,” she said.

Sladek added that there is also value in promoting the internship in noneducational venues such as job boards, as that could expose new generations and new candidates to different industries.

Paid or Unpaid?

One other hot discussion in the world of internships in recent years is whether internships should be paid or unpaid—the latter of which some associations have publicly called on their members to end.

While social pressure has been on the rise to discourage unpaid internships, which are seen as exclusionary to low-income people, associations are within their rights to offer unpaid internships under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

“Associations frequently have volunteers performing substantive work, so they can also have unpaid interns,” explained Julia E. Judish, special counsel at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP, in a 2018 interview.

(Associations Now Photo Illustration; CarmenMurillo/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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