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How To Set Up an Internship Program for Your Small Business

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How To Set Up an Internship Program for Your Small Business

By Caron_Beesley, Contributor
Published: May 9, 2012 Updated: July 21, 2016

Looking to hire an intern this summer? More and more businesses are planning on it. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), employers plan on hiring 8.5 percent more college students in 2012 for summer internships than they did last year.

Internship programs are a smart recruitment strategy for small businesses, allowing you to nurture and feed your full-time hiring efforts. A separate study by NACE found that nearly 90 percent of students who took part in internships said they would accept an offer of a full-time job from their internship employer. 

Here are six tips to help guide you through the process of setting up an internship program, and information on a new government initiative – the Summer Jobs+ Bank – that can help:

1. Review Your Needs

Remember, an intern will be looking for good experience, so be sure your needs match those of the interns. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • How can an intern help you with your business goals?
  • Do you have enough work to support an intern? Think about short-term and long-term assignments.
  • Who will supervise and mentor your intern?
  • What ramp-up and ongoing training can you provide?
  • Do you have available office space and other resources?
  • What about seasonal highs and lows? Could you use an intern beyond the summer months?

It will take several weeks to recruit and hire an intern, so the further in advance you plan, the better.

2. The Recruitment Process

Hiring an intern requires similar steps to hiring a full-time employee. You’ll need to write a job description with real work assignments and defined objectives. Decide in advance how the intern will be supervised and mentored, and how the student will benefit financially and experientially from your program.

There are several options for searching for interns:

  • Online via the Summer Jobs+ Bank – This summer, the government is stepping in to help connect small businesses with young people seeking internship and other employment opportunities via the Department of Labor’s Summer Jobs+ Bank. Businesses can post internships directly with any internet job site that is participating in the Jobs+ Bank (these include,, or LinkedIn). Check out information for employers for details about the program.
  • School/College Career Services Offices – Many schools and colleges operate internship programs through their career services offices (in exchange for student credits). Getting registered with one of these programs can provide a level of accreditation as well as access to a pool of motivated and screened talent. You can also get one step ahead by seeking an advocate or reference for your business from college professors or staff members. This is why it often makes sense to approach colleges that you know or have attended.

4. Paying Interns (and the Legal Lowdown About Unpaid Interns)

If you are serious about attracting the right talent and creating a program that nurtures your future workforce, then your compensation needs to reflect this (the average hourly rate for paid bachelor degree-level interns is currently $16.21). Can’t quite afford that? Unpaid internships are a legal option; however, there are many limits on the work unpaid interns can perform:

  • Unpaid interns cannot do any work that contributes to a company's operations. This includes any tasks that help you run your business, like documenting inventory, filing papers, answering emails, etc.
  • Unpaid interns can shadow other employees and perform duties that don't have a business need. For example, a bakery may allow an apprentice/intern to decorate a tray of cookies that will not be sold to customers. Because the task was only a training exercise for the apprentice/intern and the bakery did not receive any benefit from that work, the bakery would not have to pay that student worker for that time.

5. Other Benefits You Might Want to Offer?

Some of the more common benefits offered to interns include social activities, paid holidays, and recognition of education time as service time if they are hired to a full-time position. Other benefits to consider include scholarships, flex time, and one-on-one formal mentoring (take your intern on business trips, let them accompany you at strategic meetings, be immersive). 

6. Important Workplace and Labor Laws to Consider

Many of the labor laws that apply to employees, such as workplace discrimination laws, also apply to interns. You must also ensure you comply with workplace health and safety laws. Some states also require that you carry workers’ compensation insurance for interns.  

Got questions about setting up an internships program or working with interns? Post it below.



About the Author:

Caron Beesley


Caron Beesley is a small business owner, a writer, and marketing communications consultant. Caron works with the team to promote essential government resources that help entrepreneurs and small business owners start-up, grow and succeed. Follow Caron on Twitter: @caronbeesley


Internships in Romania (If you are a student looking for internship CLICK HERECLICK HERE to see current opportunities) We realize that trainees do not primary come to internship in Romania to learn Romanian language, that is why all our opportunities are with English working language and we pay high attention to the internship quality to maximize the value of practical experience in line with their professional specialization, where they can use and develop their skill sets in practice. We arrange internships in Romania for: Individual students or graduates Organized groups of students in cooperation with their school/sending organization (Please read further) When? We arrange internships throughout the year. The start can be any month as long as we have enough time in advance. What duration? The minimal duration of internships is 2 months. What host organisations? We place trainees in companies and organisations in a wide variety of industries and of all sizes. They are Romanian, foreign or well-known international corporations in all secctors. In most cases the host companies hosted our trainees before, but they may also be our new partners hosting the foreign trainee for the first time. Moreover, all host organisations are thoroughly screened by us to make sure they are ready to host a foreign trainee and the internship programme is well prepared. Who is our main sponsor? Our sponsor is Industrial Park Sabaru Sabaru industrial park offers Romanian and foreign investors spaces for rent, suitable for warehouses, offices and commercial spaces. A priority of our project is to create optimal conditions for traders with advanced technologies in the field of industrial production and assembly. At the same time we consider the qualification of human resources, traditional industries and raw material resources. In this way, the industrial parc industrial parc Sabaru supports the following industries: electrical, electronics, computing, engineering, wood and furniture manufacturing, food, packaging and others. What regions? Internships are located in the capital city Bucharest and throughout Romania in its different regions. The trainees are placed in or near by cities/towns, where they have good possibilities for their social life. What professional sectors? We arrange internships in almost all sectors, for example: Business Administration, NGOs, Business Management, Economic/Finance, Marketing, Sales, Human Resources, Tourism/Hotels, Design, Logistics, Engineering (mechanical, electrical, process, etc.), Import/Export, IT, Journalism, Agriculture, Medical sector, and other. What language? We host trainees from all countries, however all must speak good English. 95% of our internships are with English working language. There are some positions where other languages such as German, French or Spanish are required. WHAT SERVICES WE CAN PROVIDE We provide our partners and trainees all services and local support to make sure they get the most of the experience without risks and hassle. We make sure trainees have been taken care of and can focus on the training and their work performance. INTERNSHIPS To every trainee we provide: help with all necessary documents needed from host organisations for obtaining EU grant funding prior the internship start practical pre-departure information and our handbook orientation after departure regular monitoring of trainee progress and satisfaction through the internship assistance and emergency contact in case of need during the whole internship period certification after the internship completion In case of interest we provide trainees the following services: accommodation in self-catering accommodation in single/double bedrooms in shared apartments or student residences airport pick up and transport to the accommodation local sim card for cell phone public transport prepaid tickets for required period (buss pass) cultural events and organized trips LANGUAGE & VOCATIONAL TRAINING COURSES In our training center we provide the language courses in any desired languages as well as specialized vocational training courses in different areas based on the requirements. All our lectors are certified specialists and all participants receive a certificate of participation. We are flexible to fit the programme to the requirements of our partners in terms of time, duration, content and structure. A combination of training course and work placements/company visits are also possible. We are flexible to offer tailor made services to meet the partners wishes and fit the budget. Contact us regarding your project, we will be pleased to be your reliable partner in Romania.
Investing on new Intern is really worthy these days. Talent acquisition is challenging factor in future. Students either on Apply Scholarship or Internship
Thank you for the article. I am looking to create a paid internship for a current employee. She wanted to apply for a "formal" internship through her college when the job tasks will be similar to what she does for us now. Do you know if all internships need to be associated with a college for credit? If I create a project for her to research while she is employed by me and teach her new tasks can that qualify for an internship? In the meantime I will contact her college for further information. thank you.
An important point for the college students seeking summer internships: be mindful of your course of study when seeking an internship. It can be advantegous in the future when you are seeking employment when you list prior work experience you attained in that field which you studied. Be mindful of how the work you perform might relate to your course of study, and visa versa.
You can also get one step ahead by seeking an advocate or reference for your business from college professors or staff members
Is there a downloadable, boilerplate agreement (form) for hiring a non-paid intern? thnx
What is the procedure to alert SBA to possible violations this set of laws?
You should contact the Department of Labor for any labor law violations:
I am currently an intern at a company that matches interns with companies (interesting: intern at an internship company, yes) and I really value this post being out there. I have been exposed to so many of the great opportunities that are available and one of the most important things is having a solid job description. Including the specifics of the job functions is really important, but displaying any benefits/perks really increases the amount of applications you will get. Unpaid positions will be much more likely to receive apps if they really work hard on the content of a listing. if you want to look at a copy of a compelling listing check this out (unpaid job with tons of apps):  This post was edited to remove a link. Please review our Community Best Practices ( for more information about how best to participate in our online discussions. Thank you. Also, if your'e interested in additional info on how to write a listing/set up an internship: This post was edited to remove a link. Please review our Community Best Practices ( for more information about how best to participate in our online discussions. Thank you.
You can also get one step ahead by seeking an advocate or reference for your business from college professors or staff members.


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