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INTERN PROGRAM BEST PRACTICES

Is your summer intern program ready to launch? A review of some important information will help to make your program a success. First, ensure your program is compliant with Department of Labor regulations regarding internships. In the last couple of years, both the federal and state governments have been cracking down on the use of unpaid interns. The use of ‘free’ interns has been significantly reduced since 2010 when the Department of Labor issued new criteria for employers using unpaid interns:

• Internship needs to be structured as a training experience, similar to a classroom as opposed to the employer’s actual operations.
• The training given to the interns must benefit of the intern, not the employer.
• Employers should see no immediate benefit from the intern’s work.
• The intern cannot displace regular employees; they should work under close supervision.
• In advance, establish that the internship is for a fixed duration of time and that the intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship.
• There should be a clear understanding by both the employer and the intern that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.

If your program includes unpaid interns, consult federal and state wage and hour web sites or legal counsel regarding regulatory compliance. In addition to the regulations, many universities and colleges have specific requirements for the internship program up to and including providing educational credit. If your intern program does not fit the regulatory criteria for unpaid interns, the same wage and hour guidelines that you follow for your hourly (non-tip) workforce will apply. Interns are often paid at rates comparable to entry level positions within the department or discipline in which the intern will work. Local market or industry salary surveys can assist you in setting competitive pay rates for your interns.

In addition to the compliance component of your intern program, below are some best practices to consider integrating into your program:

• Recruit the right candidates by having a clear and thoughtful internship description.
• Designate a program manager and a manager as well as a mentor for each intern.
• Provide structure, even when they aren’t paid.
• Hold orientation sessions for all involved.
• Provide interns with a handbook and/or website.
• Provide interns with real work that is related to their major, that is challenging, that is recognized by the organization as valuable, and that fills the entire work term.
• Consider offering flex time for the interns.
• Host social events and activities for the interns.
• Encourage team involvement.
• Conduct exit interviews.

Today’s world moves fast, and as an employer, you should constantly be monitoring and adjusting your business operations to meet the ever-changing wants and needs of your employees. At WageWatch, we offer accurate, up-to-date benefit survey data, market compensation data and salary reports that will allow you to stay current with the times. This information is highly beneficial in creating the best salary and benefits packages that meet or rival the industry standards. For more information on our services, including market compensation data, benefits survey data and salary reports, please call WageWatch at 888-330-9243 or contact us online.