Internship programs: A boost for a small business – Part I

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

By Mark G. Auerbach

You may have participated in a formal or informal internship or apprenticeship when you were starting out. If you gained something from the experience, and want to pay it forward, adding an intern program can be good for you, your business, and your interns.

Many colleges, universities, tech programs, and vocational schools have formal programs, and they can help you develop an internship program, recruit students for your review, and help you make your program rewarding for your company and your intern.

Students who have interned generally find the experience beneficial. So do the companies who bring them on board. I have hosted interns from several area colleges and universities over the years, and drew intense satisfaction watching them develop in their careers. One became a leader in advertising sales for a local radio station. Another became a business reporter with a regional newspaper. A couple of years ago, as my client base changed, I brought high school and college students onto my social media team, choosing to mentor them (and pay them) over working through an internship program.

What you get by offering an internship

– A fresh pair of eyes looking at your operation–an opportunity to get perspective from someone younger. A high school senior introduced me to social media platforms that I wasn’t aware of, and built an Instagram campaign for one of my clients.

– An eager participant in your business operation. Interns join your team because they want to. Their eagerness to learn and their desire to accomplish make them great team additions.

– An opportunity to teach someone your skills, which clarifies your own communication and mentoring skills. When you have to explain what you do and how you do it, and you see a successful response, you’re building your communications skills.

– An opportunity to affiliate with a high school, college, or university. This kind of relationship may help you find employees, a potential buyer for your product or service, or a network opportunity.

– A mind and a pair of hands to help you expand a needed program or service. High school and college students have social media skills that can help you reach a larger market. Many can make videos on their phones. They can help you update and refresh your collateral materials, add video to a stagnant website, and help you communicate with the young and up-and-coming market. Social media.

To pay or not to pay

Some colleges and universities reward their students who intern with course credits. Some may offer a small stipend to those who intern. But, the student is responsible for paying those course credits, and their time spent working for you may preclude them from finding part-time work to pay for school.

When you pay your interns, you’re paying for work that they provide. You’re helping them pay for school, and you tend to get a more dedicated intern. (When they’re getting credit, it’s easy to skip a workday, expect school breaks, or other student perks). Don’t pay them any less than minimum wage.

When you pay an intern, you’re saying, “I value your participation. I value your dedication. I value your commitment.” And, when people feel valued, they tend to produce more.

In setting up an internship…

Develop a position description that clearly outlines who the intern reports to and defines their work responsibilities, including working hours, dress code, etc.

Set aside time to offer feedback, encouragement, and training. (As I do with the young people who work with me, I also just check in to see how they’re doing). Keep their school instructor or liaison in the loop, and let that advisor know how the student is progressing.

Listen; don’t preach. Once you develop a rapport, you may get some advice and wisdom from the intern.

Coming next: Part II – Four interns share their advice on internship programs.


Mark G. Auerbach is principal at Mark G. Auerbach Public Relations, a Springfield, MA, based marketing, public relations, development and events consultancy. You can find more information about Mark at Facebook and LinkedIn. Mark also produces ArtsBeat in print in The Westfield News, on radio for Pioneer Valley Radio and on TV and radio on WCPC15 and 89.5fm/WSKB. His new series, On The Mark, premiered in October.

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