Employers: Tips for Hiring Interns
Why Hire Oregon Tech Interns?
Many employers are eager to connect with Oregon Tech talent, because they know that our students "hit the ground running." Our hands-on, experiential learning environment prepares students to make contributions to your organization, even as interns.
What is an Internship?
An internship is one form of experiential education undertaken by students. Other common types undertaken by students in partnership with employers are part-time employment and industry-sponsored research and projects. Oregon Tech students are in demand and provide value to your organization, and thus we do not post unpaid internships. Fortunately, the rules surrounding paid internships are quite flexible and give employers more latitude in how they design them.
Here are some best practices to make your internship experience successful:
- The internship should be a learning experience that provides a place for applying the knowledge gained in the classroom. It should not be simply to advance your operations or be the work that a regular employee would routinely perform.
- The skills or knowledge learned should be transferable to other employment settings. While you are understandably interested in creating a talent pipeline, training students on a highly specific process or technology relevant only to your organization is not a great experience for the student.
- The experience should have a job description with defined beginning and end dates, a description of your organization, a description of the duties and/or projects the intern will be working on, and clearly specified required and desired qualifications so that students can customize their application to let you know how qualified they are.
- Ideally, there should be clearly defined learning objectives/goals related to the professional goals of the student’s academic coursework. What will students know at the end of the experience that they did not know prior? This can include both technical knowledge, and knowledge of working in a professional workplace.
- There should be supervision by a professional with expertise and educational and/or professional background in the field of the experience.
- There should be routine feedback by the experienced supervisor. Students want to do their best, but they will need a bit of guidance to help them do so.
- There should be resources, equipment, and facilities provided by the host employer that support learning objectives/goals.
What are the Benefits of Internships to Employers?
Immediate Contributions to Your Operations
Oregon Tech students have a reputation for being immediate contributors, driven by their maturity and their experience in applying their knowledge under the supervision of industry-expert faculty.
Current Skill Set
Students are learning the most up-to-date skills in their field and bring that cutting-edge knowledge into your workplace.
Inexpensive, Temporary Labor
Interns provide valuable contributions at a significantly lower cost than regular FTE, and can be brought in to work on short-term projects that current employees do not have the bandwidth to complete.
A Sourcing Pipeline
After spending several months at your firm, employees who intern then sign on as full-time-employees understand your culture, are committed to your mission, are trained in your operations, and are much more likely to be retained after five years. NACE reports that nationwide, over half of college interns become full-time employees at the same firm, and students who intern prior to graduation are much more likely to be retained as employees five years out. In addition, top students are typically hired by their internship sites when they graduate. If you want to hire these students, you need to hire them as interns.
Fewer IP Legal Issues
Paid interns working on innovative technology, as employees of your organization, create fewer issues with intellectual property. View Innovation & Technology Transfer for more information.
A Fresh Perspective
You may be surprised that the questions interns ask may prompt you to think differently about your operations!
How Much Should I Pay Interns?
There are several advantages to paying interns:
- Avoids legal issues. In addition to the IP issues noted above, internship providers are increasingly under scrutiny for fair labor practices.
- Creates ownership in the program by both the business/agency and the intern.
- Produces a better pool of intern candidates. Most students take on debt to attend school and many work while in school. They are not able to participate in unpaid internships.
- Enhances employer branding. Savvy students can see how much competitors pay interns by using sites like glassdoor.com.
- Non-profit exception: Many nonprofit organizations are prohibited by policy from paying interns so may provide internships as long as they are structured learning experiences.
Interns are paid an hourly wage; they typically fall into the "non-exempt" category due to the nature of their positions. Many employers use the salary they pay a new college hire as the starting point for determining intern wages. Intern pay rates vary based on the student’s major and the functional area in which student is assigned, just as new college hire rates will. In addition to major and functional area, many employers use the student’s year in school in setting rates.
As a benchmark, the national average hourly wage for interns at the bachelor's degree-level is $17.20, with technical degrees typically higher than average. The highest salaries for bachelor’s degree-level interns were reported for computer science ($18.79) and engineering ($20.04) majors. Savvy students use sites like Glassdoor.com to compare intern wages across employers. Source: NACE
While academic credit legitimizes an unpaid internship, in order to be identified as an internship, the experience must fit the seven best practice criteria listed above.
Summer is the most common time for internships, and when students tend to be most available. Oregon Tech works on a quarter schedule, so a summer internship would fall into the mid-June to mid-September timeframe. However, internships can take place at any time. At Oregon Tech’s Portland Metro campus, many students work while completing their degrees and are interested in applying their learning year-round.
When Should I Recruit?
Many students plan ahead, but others are not ready to commit until closer to summer. You may hire summer interns as early as the previous fall, and as late as a few weeks before the internship begins. Keep in mind the recruiting schedules of other firms who may be competing with you for interns. Internships, whether they are for summer or other times, may be posted to students at any time.
Who Should I Recruit?
Students will travel for internships, especially during the summer, so do not limit yourself only to local candidates. Oregon Tech offers a variety of programs across several campuses. For the best pool of applicants, post your positions to students across the university. View our full list of programs and program directors.
How Should I Recruit?
To ensure that your internship opportunity is seen by the most students, we recommend the following:
How Do I Ensure a Positive Experience?
There are many ways to promote a positive experience for both your organization and for the student. You may review best practices on the NACE website. You will find additional information from ERE.net (geared to corporate recruiters) and from InternBridge, which offers a number of internship white papers based on extensive primary research.
Completion of Purposeful Project Assignments with Concrete Deliverables
Preparing a preliminary list of potential projects that will help the student learn and help the company achieve important goals is a very good start. Interns need focused, purposeful roles to keep them motivated, learning, and helping to meet organizational objectives. Jobs that merely require the student to perform clerical or routine tasks should not be considered as internships. Concrete deliverables provide the student with an opportunity to add to their portfolio.
There should be many opportunities for instant communication and feedback from an experienced professional. Other students should not supervise interns. The mentor/supervisor must serve as an information source and assure that interns are keeping pace and accomplishing goals. The supervisor/mentor should serve as a positive role model while putting a heavy emphasis on teaching and supporting the intern throughout the entire experience.
Adequate Space and Resources
A proper work environment and tools are critical success factors of a quality internship. This includes adequate work area (cubicle and desk, office and desk etc., or some other acceptable work area) and adequate resources to perform tasks and to learn including a computer, software, office supplies, and telephone.
Exposure to a Professional Environment
The intern should be working onsite in a professional environment with exposure to a variety of settings and experiences, such as team meetings.
Highly Desirable Elements
Opportunities for networking and career development: There should be opportunities to build personal relationships and networks during the course of the internship. There should be opportunity for direct contact and more personal interaction with supervisors, mentors, employees and other interns.
Exposure to the big picture: through company tours, job shadowing, field trips, and attendance at company training seminars.
On the first day of the internship the intern should review the job description with the supervisor. The assumption should be that the student's duties will not change drastically during the course of the internship and if they do, it will be to the student's benefit (i.e., more responsibility for better learning experience). Having a set of well-defined responsibilities focuses the learning and gives the student a better chance of achieving critical learning objectives. The supervisor should make a list of projects to be worked on during the course of the semester, and have a clear idea of what the intern will work on when not working on specific projects.
Orientation programs can ensure that interns get off to a good start, and can address such topics as:
- Handbook or policy/procedure manual
- History, mission, services, products, etc.
- Organization's current objectives or focus
- Intern job description
- Work schedule including start times, end times, break times etc.
- Email, mail, Internet, and telephone system Mail, email, and internet telephone etiquette
- Cell phone and texting policy
- Social media policy
- Security issues
- Introductions to key personnel
Internship Curriculum/Student Learning Objectives
There should be clear learning objectives for the student intern. This is shared responsibility—the internship provider/supervisor should help facilitate the setting of these objectives and the accomplishment of them during the semester. Each student intern should customize goals and put them in writing, in consultation with the supervisor, to meet their own specific needs and desired career path exploration, but should also consider generic internship goals that apply to all internships:
- Applying classroom theory/knowledge to actual working situations
- Gaining new knowledge by performing tasks, working on projects, and completing other on the job learning experiences related to a professional discipline
- Gaining a greater degree of self-direction in the learning process
- Testing a tentative career choice
There should be an exit interview (initiated by the supervisor) with the intern at the conclusion of the experience. Possible topics:
- Employer evaluation of intern: (performance evaluation)
- Job offer, future job references (letters of reference or references on applications), staying in touch, and other possible mentoring opportunities either at the company or in the industry.
- Intern evaluation of internship: What can we do to improve our internship program? Were the projects and tasks relevant to your major? Did you understand what was expected of you? Did you have enough access to your supervisor/mentor? What did you like most? Dislike most?
Keeping in Touch
At many organizations, once an offer is made and accepted—usually in late fall for summer interns—new hires are paired with a buddy or mentor, or other staff member. Employers say it’s important to maintain contact via phone and e-mail, asking former interns to participate at career fair booths and at information sessions, and to serve as campus ambassadors for the organization.