How to Build a better Internship Program

By: Matt Alderton

Message From The President

Believe it or not, summer will soon be here. For college students across the country, that means one thing: summer internships.

"For many, the internship represents that rite of passage from being a student to becoming a young professional," says Fast Company contributor Michael Grothaus. "Internships help young adults apply what they've learned in their studies to the real world. It is an internship at a coveted company, many argue, that makes the recent college grad more marketable than her degree itself."

Unfortunately, internships aren't always a positive experience.

"In recent years, internships have come under fire for sometimes being little more than a way for companies to exploit cheap or even free labor," continues Grothaus, who says it behooves companies to rethink how they view internships; instead of seeing them as a tactical way to get cheap labor today, he suggests, try approaching them as a strategic way to get better labor tomorrow. "After all, the goal of an internship should be to help mold students into capable young professionals."

To design an internship that benefits both your company and its interns, make sure it includes meaningful work, advises Christine Terminello, manager of campus recruiting at Newell Brands, maker of Rubbermaid food storage containers.

"At Newell Brands, all our interns are given individual 'hero projects' that they are responsible for completing throughout their 12-week program," Terminello tells Grothaus, who says the "hero projects" are designed by business leaders to help solve real problems the company faces. "It's very common that our interns' recommendations are implemented, giving them the opportunity to make a real impact on our business and further showcase their potential as a full-time employee."

Feedback and coaching also are key. "While giving an intern a meaningful project to work on, don't just drop it in their lap and then check in the day before their internship ends to see how they did," Grothaus concludes.

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