Implementing an internship program can seem overwhelming to small business owners who are already inundated with the flurry of daily activities associated with running a successful business. However, a well-structured internship program can offer a tremendous benefit to a small business by affordably increasing productivity and recruiting well-suited staff members. We’ve taken the most valuable insights and lessons we’ve learned from running our own internship program and created a guide to help you create and implement your own successful program. By taking a few key steps and building a solid foundation, you’ll be on your way to appreciating the advantages of a cost-effective and motivated group of candidates to help lead your business into the future.

Define your goals

This will help determine how you structure your program and what type of interns make the most sense for your business. Think about some of your most pressing business needs and if you currently have the manpower to accomplish all the tasks associated with those needs. Some factors to consider include:

  • Do you have a set of specific projects an intern could help with?
    • Having defined projects is crucial for both you and your interns. By creating specific projects, your interns are able to work more independently, giving you the freedom to focus your attention elsewhere.
  • Do you need to find qualified candidates to grow your employee pool?
    • This can be especially important if you’re in an industry where the demand is larger than the pool of qualified employees. Internships can be a great tool to determine fit and skill level of several candidates before committing to an offer of employment.
  • Is giving back to the community part of your business philosophy?
    • Give back to your community by providing an environment where local students can learn real-world business practices, thus helping them get started in their career and setting them up for future success. Additionally, you will help create a greater workforce in the community at large.
  • Can we manage an internship program at this time?
    • While a well-run internship program can free up time for you and your team to work on other projects, it is important to make sure that whomever is responsible for supervising the interns has the time and resources needed to effectively manage them. Even the best intern can become a distraction and cost the business time and money without good direction.

Create a structure

With your goals in mind, you can now begin to create the structure of your program. A comprehensive structure should include information on objectives, responsibilities, projects, program duration, compensation and expectations, at a minimum. Begin by compiling a list of projects that would be appropriate for an intern to complete. Once you have your list of projects, you can build job descriptions around the specifications and desired skill set you feel is needed to achieve favorable results.

Up next: Finding the Right Candidates, On-boarding your Intern & Getting Results.