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How to Build a Winning Internship Program

By Matt Casadona

How to Build a Winning Internship Program

October 12 2021 - Internships provide benefits for students and employers. A strong internship program can help your organization cut costs and recruit top talent while providing a college student or recent graduate with the opportunity to learn and earn credits. Here's how you can build a winning internship program.

Put Someone In Charge

If you want to have a winning internship program, you'll need someone to spend all their time developing it. Having a person who is in charge of interns can help you build a program that ensures they get the most out of their experience. Small businesses don't have to hire a new employee to run the program. Instead, have two or more existing staff members coordinate the program.

During the internship, you can include employees from different departments to teach classes in their field that can help interns develop new skills.

Give Interns Mentors

Providing interns with mentors gives them someone to go to when they have a question. It also allows them to get personal feedback so they can improve their performance. Junior-level employees make great mentors because they've been at the company long enough and have demonstrated their experience, so you know you can trust them.

Not only that, but these individuals are typically close in age to interns, so they can provide them with a relaxed relationship that promotes growth and development, rather than one that breeds stress.

Remember, your interns have never worked anywhere like your company before, so they may have questions they don't feel comfortable asking their supervisor or upper management.

Instead, provide your interns with junior-level employees to create a relaxed relationship that promotes professional growth and comfortability. After all, if this is an intern's first corporate experience, they may have a plethora of questions to better grasp the corporate world.

Set Goals

Setting goals allows your interns to check on their progress. Interns can work on a few major projects depending on the length of their internship, so setting goals and tracking progress can help keep them motivated and learn valuable time-management skills.

Commit to Intern Development

As your interns get more comfortable in their roles, make sure you set up a structure that allows them to receive feedback. You can provide a personal experience while giving them feedback about how they are doing in their role so they can make improvements when necessary.

You can commit to intern development by having managers review what interns are working on and develop to-do lists for the next few weeks. Managers can provide a framework for interns so they know exactly what they should be working on without any confusion.

Managers or mentors should also have weekly meetings with interns to make sure they are on the same page about work and expectations. The structure of your internship program depends on your business' needs, but by effectively communicating, you can keep them focused on their goals.

In addition to casual meetings with interns, you should also plan for reviews of their performance like you would any other employee. These reviews should outline what your interns are doing well and areas where they need improvement so they can work on better performing their jobs.

Pay Your Interns

Far too many businesses offer unpaid internships to desperate college students looking for experience. This can be viewed as a form of mistreatment in the workplace. What those businesses fail to realize is college students need money. Not only do they have a full course load, some even have jobs so they can pay for their education. If you're not offering compensation for an internship, you'll lose out on top candidates who don't have time to get an internship because they're working part-time jobs to pay for tuition.

Not only that, but by paying your interns, you'll show them you care about their wellbeing and demonstrate a caring company culture. Remember, after an internship is over, the intern can spread the word about your business, so you want to show them the same dedication you show your full-time employees.

Offer Full-time Positions


The goal of an internship for an intern is to learn the skills necessary for obtaining a job in their chosen field. The goal of an internship for a business is to bring someone in and train them to do the job. Unfortunately, many businesses use their internship programs to get free labor and don't care what happens to the intern once the program is over. Remember, you took the time to onboard someone new to the job and your company, so there should be some reward for both parties at the end of an internship.

By offering full-time positions to successful interns, you can bring in new employees that already know how your business functions. Not to mention, they will already have a clear idea about what is expected of them.

Not only that, but you can bring in more interns in the future by providing this benefit. The potential for a full-time job after graduation can help you recruit top talent from the beginning of their careers.

Keep in Touch

If you don't offer full-time positions to interns, you should have a strategy in place for staying in touch. You never know when a new position will open up. Staying in touch with interns can be a form of networking so you'll have the opportunity to reconnect later.

At the end of the internship program, make sure you provide your interns with a reference letter they can use when they look for employment. While your business may not be looking to hire, you should still try to take care of your interns while they look for other opportunities.

Structuring Your Program

The tips outlined in this article will provide you with a starting point, but you'll need to structure your internship to fit the specific needs and goals of your business. Make sure you foster communication and collaboration between your interns and employees so interns can feel like they're part of a team.

By developing bright talent, you can retain great employees at the start of their successful careers.

About the author

Matt Casadona

Matt Casadona has a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, with a concentration in Marketing and a minor in Psychology. Matt is passionate about marketing and business strategy and enjoys the San Diego life, traveling and music.

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