Small businesses in Northeast Ohio ?Ǭ†– and across America, for that matter – have long used college student interns and recent grads as a helpful, low-cost human resource. Student interns are capable, motivated and ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú if well managed ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú highly valuable to your business. A great number of high school, college, graduate and vocational school students are eager to take advantage of the real-world business opportunities offered to them by local businesses — during the entire academic year and not just during the summer months.

With the University of Akron, Walsh University, ?Ǭ†Malone College, and Kent State (Stark) ?Ǭ†just down the road, local businesses access to a huge pool of talent.

An increasing number of students today are capable of far more than just clerical work. Many can competently handle complex projects in such areas as finance, public relations, event planning and Web site design/development. And, many students choose internships at small companies instead of larger ones because of the hands-on experience they can get.

The trick is the “well-managed” part. Small businesses too often hire interns without a plan. Success with interns requires finding the right people and creating a system that cultivates interns?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ capabilities.

Creating Your Intern Program

Interns can help you and your employees be more productive by freeing up their time ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú all while providing valuable learning experiences for the intern. Take an inventory of substantive work you need done. Ask other employees what tasks an intern could perform ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú especially those “back burner” things that nobody else has time to complete. There are many things that interns can help with ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú however, to make it a mutually beneficial experience, consider setting up some of these tasks: Interns can help you and your employees be more productive by freeing up their time ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú all while providing valuable learning experiences for the intern. Take an inventory of substantive work you need done. Ask other employees what tasks an intern could perform ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú especially those “back burner” things that nobody else has time to complete. There are many things that interns can help with ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú however, to make it a mutually beneficial experience, consider setting up some of these tasks:

  • identify prospects
  • pursue business leads
  • write or send press releases
  • plan events
  • identify news media for publicity
  • prepare award submissions
  • do Web research on your industry or competitors
  • refresh Web site content
  • assist with presentations, design charts, graphs and posters
  • recruit the next interns

Getting Started

To help get you started, we?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ve compiled some key steps to launching and managing your intern program:

  1. Attract candidates by posting internship positions online. Some internship sites let you post positions for free, others have small per/month charges for a listing. Employers can also post internship positions at Internships.com where a month-long listing is $10.
  2. Contact the internship/career offices of local high schools, colleges, universities, vocational schools and graduate schools. Internship coordinators help match students’ abilities with employers’ needs.
  3. Assign someone in your business (it may just be you) to have overall responsibility for your internship program, and be allotted the time and resources to properly manage it.
  4. Determine if you have adequate workspace with access to computers and other tech tools.
  5. Interns need a clear sense of guidance and structure, as they may be in a business for the first time. Schedules, work plans and deadlines will help.
  6. Documentation is very important for effective learning to take place. It is strongly advisable that an employer and intern create mutually agreed upon learning objectives.

Using interns in your organization can result in many benefits. It is important to do some careful planning before creating your internship program. You can be sure to continue recruiting from your pool of internship candidates and foster positive public relations by implementing an effective, thorough internship program.

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