Watch Out! 7 Pitfalls to Avoid When Setting Up a College Internship Program

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Welcome to Recruiter Q&A, where we pose employment-related questions to the experts and share their answers!

Today’s Question: What is one danger to watch for when establishing a college internship program, and what can companies do to avoid that pitfall?

The answers below are provided by YEC Next, an invitation-only community for the world’s most promising early-stage entrepreneurs.

jonathan1. Violating Employment Laws

Running afoul of employment laws is a real danger when setting up an internship program. You can avoid this by making it clear that the intern’s training and education far exceed the value of the labor they’re giving the employer.

Jonathan Gabriel Sparks, Sparks Law 

zahra2. Failing to Manage the College’s Expectations

The long-term success of the college internship program will be heavily influenced by the ongoing relationship between the company and the college. To ensure a positive relationship, the expectations of the college (intern tasks and workloads, frequency, post-internship employment, compensation, etc.) need to be properly managed.

Zahra Timsah, American Medical Center Laboratories  

ajmal3. Accepting All Interns

Not all students are excited about their internships — some are simply fulfilling graduation requirements. A nonproductive intern takes a lot of time away from focusing on your business, and you can’t force someone to be interested in an internship they couldn’t care less about. It is crucial to select your interns with care.

Ajmal Saleem, Suprex Learning  

reb4. Not Getting Your Paperwork in Order

When I ran a large internship program for the World Trade Center San Diego, one of our students filed a complaint with the California Employment Development Department claiming he was an employee. Luckily, we had our interns all sign a handbook that clearly stated the internship was not a paid employee position. The board mediator used this as one of the main factors in the decision to dismiss the case.

Reb Risty, REBL Marketing  

kyle5. Underestimating Interns

Don’t underestimate the abilities of your interns. If you don’t expect them to have the skills to work at a high level and only assign them mundane tasks, you may end up with disengaged interns. Worse, that attitude can spread to the rest of the team. Talk with interns before they arrive to find out their interests. Then, use this information to create clear, individualized goals for their programs.

Kyle Wiggins, Keteka  

todd6. Going in Without a Plan

It’s easy to get excited about having an intern on board to help the company, but make sure you have a plan for what they will be doing and how they will be learning. Without a plan, they will end up floating around and not providing as much value to the team as they could. An intern won’t develop into a quality hire for you in the long term unless you specifically help them.

Todd Giannattasio, Tresnic Media  

jessica7. Making the Program Too Short

Interns are there to learn from you, and that takes time. You are helping them thrive and develop their skills. If you want to see any real results, make sure your interns stay long enough for you to witness the return on your investment in them. The longer the term, the better the results.

Jessica Baker, Aligned Signs  

By Recruiter Q&A