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This guide will help you better understand the purpose of internships and serve as a resource for those thinking of hiring interns in the future. Internships are beneficial to both employers and students. They offer employers access to highly motivated students and the opportunity to fill temporary job openings, free your staff’s time for other projects, or ease your work load during busy times. Students benefit from internships by gaining hands-on experience and a chance to explore career options.
The Career Center supports internships by connecting students with employers, facilitating academic credit, and serving as a resource for both employers and students. UI strongly endorses internships and other experiential learning activities to help students progress in their personal and professional career development.
What is an internship?
According to the National Association of Colleges & Employers (NACE), an internship is a form of experiential learning that integrates knowledge and theory learned in the classroom with practical application and skills development in a professional setting. Internships give students the opportunity to gain valuable applied experience and make connections in professional fields they are considering for career paths; and give employers the opportunity to guide and evaluate talent.
Criteria for an Experience to Be Defined as an Internship
An internship is a legitimate learning experience benefitting the student and not simply an operational work experience that just happens to be conducted by a student. The core question is whether or not work performed by an intern will primarily benefit the employer in a way that does not also advance the education of the student. To ensure that an experience is educational, and thus eligible to be considered a legitimate internship by the NACE definition, all the following criteria must be met:
- The experience must be an extension of the classroom: a learning experience that provides for applying the knowledge gained in the classroom. It must not be simply to advance the operations of the employer or be the work that a regular employee would routinely perform.
- The skills or knowledge learned must be transferable to other employment settings.
- The experience has a defined beginning and end, and a job description with desired qualifications.
- There are clearly defined learning objectives/goals related to the professional goals of the student’s academic coursework.
- There is supervision by a professional with expertise and educational and/or professional background in the field of the experience.
- There is routine feedback by the experienced supervisor.
- There are resources, equipment, and facilities provided by the host employer that support learning objectives/goals.
Developing an Internship Program:
Developing a successful internship program requires planning and organization so that neither the organization nor intern is disappointed with the experience. The clearer you are about the goals for your internship program and how those goals will be achieved, the easier it will be to implement your program. Questions that you should answer while developing your program:
Why do you want an internship program? What do you hope to gain from it? How will you achieve your goals?
What will your intern learn and gain from the experience? What tasks/responsibilities do you want your intern to perform? Who will train and supervise your intern?
What resources will be needed? Will you pay your intern? How much?
Remember, internships are mutually beneficial – the intern should benefit from the internship as much as your company benefits from hiring them. A good program provides opportunities for a student to learn about their employers work environment and industry. Involve interns in real projects and include them in meetings to listen and learn.
Benefits for Students:
Provides a full and realistic view of workplace culture and expectations.
Integrates academic preparation with professional challenges.
Builds confidence and success through internship experience.
Encourages contact between UI students and professionals in their field of interest.
Helps students build professional networks.
Benefits for Employers:
Enhance an organization’s image and recruitment activities.
Evaluate and “try out” interns for future job openings without any commitment to hire.
Allows staff to focus on higher priority projects. Interns can provide staff support on projects to avoid diverting other employees from their specialized areas.
Strengthen your affirmative action program. By offering internships to minorities, women, and the physically disabled, your internship program can serve as the foundation of an active equal employment opportunity program and can help you meet your affirmative action goals.
Addresses turnover problems. UI interns are mature and career-oriented. By providing them with the skills to thrive in your organization early on, you create a pool of strong, dependable candidates for continued employment who already know about your company.
Cost-effective recruiting tool. The Career Center can help you connect with motivated and highly qualified students, making your search for quality candidates more effective.
Establishes strong University-Community relations. Interns are the first step in building a solid relationship between the University and industry. These bonds can pave the way for future joint projects of mutual interest.
Internship program are a good investment. UI interns are creative, highly motivated individuals. Through mutual commitment and joint achievement, you will be rewarded with a balanced work force and positive investment in the future.
Your primary responsibility as the employer of a UI intern, is to ensure that the internship you offer is meaningful and will serve to enhance the student’s educational experience and career development. An internship should NOT be viewed as a form of “cheap labor”.
Offer a career-related experience that enhances academic learning. Internships serves as a link between classroom learning and practical application… don’t be afraid to give your intern tasks that an entry-level professional would do; they will learn more about your field.
Provide a job description. If students are earning academic credit for the internship, they may be required by their advisor to complete a Learning Agreement. This is an opportunity for you and your intern to clearly define the learning goals and job duties for the internship.
Appoint someone to mentor/supervise your intern. Make sure this person has the time to oversee the interns’ performance. Provide an orientation for your intern to learn about your work site, and training to learn more about their job responsibilities. Inform the intern of rules, dress code, and work expectations to be followed.
Provide ongoing feedback and a performance evaluation. You may use your own performance evaluation or one from the UI. Evaluations help interns grow professionally.
Resources for Recruiting Students:
The Career Center can help you recruit the right students for your internship. Below are ways to connect with students:
Post your internship on Vandal CareerConnection. University of Idaho’s FREE online job/internship database (www.uidaho.edu/careercenter).
Place an ad in the Argonaut, the UI student newspaper. Contact the Argonaut for pricing (208-885-7825 or email@example.com).
Place an ad on the Flat Screen Announcement Boards located in the Idaho Commons building. http://www.sub.uidaho.edu/display or firstname.lastname@example.org
Use our Employer Resources. Attend career fairs (Engineering fair, Ag & Natural Resource fair, and All-Majors career fair), participate in on-campus interviewing and networking events, visit campus to meet with faculty and student clubs, or facilitate class presentations. Contact our Employer Relations team to learn more (contact info on last page)
Meet Faculty/Staff in Academic Departments. Students often seek internship information from their academic advisor. By building relationships with faculty and advisors in academic departments, your company and internships may get more exposure.
When to Advertise your Internship:
University of Idaho students are looking for internships year-round. You can advertise your internship any time during the year, but keep these dates in mind:
For highly competitive summer internships or those requiring background checks, begin advertising in September with November/December closing deadlines.
Less competitive internships can advertise mid-January with March/April deadlines.
Fall Semester Internships: For a September start date, it is best to post an announcement by April and continue advertising until classes begin in late August.
Spring Semester Internships: For a January start date, it is best to post an announcement in October and continue advertising until mid-January.