Internship programs are a vital part of education and business, offering real-world experience to students and an opportunity for companies to employ new talent. If you haven’t read our last two posts about internships, check them out:
Look for the article on internships in the July/August issue of Delaware Business, too!
We asked our members to share their internship practices and we are so grateful to those that responded. Here, we will share their experiences, strategies and advice for creating a valuable internship program.
Our panel, if you will, represents Rodel Foundation of Delaware, Cash Connect (a division of WSFS), Gunnip and Company, LLP and Habitat for Humanity New Castle County. Clicking on the company names will take you to their story within this post!
We’ll start with helpful insight and advice from our contributors (italicized print indicates the Chamber’s thoughts):
- Anne Birney, first ever intern at Habitat for Humanity New Castle County, believes the creation of an intern manual or handbook would be beneficial for successfully continuing the new program. Intern manuals, as with any guide created for a position, are helpful for learning day-to-day assignments and might contain things like how-to instructions and tips for making recurring projects run smoothly.
- Gunnip and Company, LLC’s Frances Pyle said, “Someone once said, ‘90% of life is just showing up.’ I think a good internship program is similar – present learning opportunities, stay involved, show up and pay attention to them. Be interested, not just interesting if ultimately you want the intern to choose your organization.” Being involved with your intern also ensures that you are both on the same page when it comes to the expectations you have of each other and facilitating open discussion will benefit you both.
- “Devote time to the intern program. Just hiring interns and assigning work/projects will not make the program successful. Make sure to share the big picture with them and allow them to see how what they do makes a difference to the company. Feed them – it’s something the company can do since interns are typically not paid the regular rate of an associate,” said Rebecca Anthony of Cash Connect. A successful program is about more than your company getting some extra help, it’s also about helping the intern learn and grow. Food is also not a bad idea. Well-fed people are happy people and happy people do better work, we know!
- Brittany Mason of The Rodel Foundation of Delaware advises to set the bar high for your interns. “[We] are intentional about providing them with experiences outside of our office and empowering them with ownership over projects. We also strive to make Rodel a fun, collegial place to work. We believe that this creates a good program, and we are proud that many of our former interns recommend our program to their classmates and friends, who in turn apply the following summers.” As always, word-of-mouth is a powerful tool, and by setting high standards for your program and expecting big things from interns, you attract quality applicants that in turn output quality work.
The Rodel Foundation of Delaware
The Rodel Foundation of Delaware, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving education throughout the state, has had an internship program in place for nearly ten years. Their summer interns begin in May or June and finish in August. The Foundation assesses their needs during the spring to decide which areas of the organization would benefit from an intern.
“Some years, the emphasis has been on public will and awareness building; while in other years the interns have focused on policy and analysis. However, all of our interns have contributed to diverse work across the organization, as extra support is needed,” said Brittany Mason, research associate at Rodel.
Rodel selects interns from a number of undergraduate and graduate students pursuing degrees in Public Policy or Administration.
“Rodel seeks to provide our interns with a very substantive, enriching experience that will positively contribute to their career aspirations. We have provided them with independence to lead discrete projects, and also include them in team-based projects,” said Mason.
Recently, Rodel Foundation of Delaware interns assisted in the research, writing and blogging for Race to the Top.
WSFS division, Cash Connect is the leading provider of ATM Vault Cash, Armored Carrier Management, and Cash Forecasting solutions in the ATM industry. They have employed interns since 1999 and are currently providing experience to eleven interns. Cash Connect typically pulls from college juniors and seniors majoring in Business, MIS, Computer Science, Finance, Accounting, and Marketing.
Cash Connect’s Human Resources department sorts through applications before contract manager Rebecca Anthony selects the ones she wants to interview. If hired, interns are required to read and sign their job description to ensure they understand what is expected of them.
“Clearly laying out the ground rules of the internship is very important. I go over things such as breaks, internet use, etc. This allows the interns to know the working rules before they enter the office. I didn’t always do this, and the interns didn’t know the unwritten rules to follow,” said Anthony.
Anthony likes to try to take each new intern out to lunch in order to learn more about them and group lunches including all the interns is common. They work part time during the school year and full time during the summer, usually staying with the company until they graduate.
Gunnip and Company, LLC
Gunnip and Company, LLC offers assurance, tax and business consulting services, as well as a challenging intern program for accounting majors. Partners of the company teamed up with an accounting professor from the University of Delaware in 2008 to develop their initial internship program. Gunnip hires their interns for a ten-week period and utilizes the University of Delaware career website, job fairs and special events to meet potential interns.
“Putting together a solid program and monitoring how it works for each intern is important. The experience can determine how an intern values your organization in terms of whether a job offer will be accepted and in terms of how their experience will be recounted back on campus,” said Frances Pyle, human resources manager.
To make sure everyone is gaining value from the experience, two evaluations are completed during the internship by both Gunnip and the intern to open lines of communication and determine what is working well or what could be modified. Gunnip’s interns have been involved with various other activities in addition to their intern duties, including community service and fundraising projects, creating a Gunnip Internship video, assisting with research and helping at recruiting events.
Pyle tells us that the majority of their interns have continued on to become staff accountants with the company, making the program worthwhile for everyone involved.
Habitat for Humanity New Castle County
2011 marks the first year of Habitat for Humanity New Castle County (HFHNCC) hiring an intern. We were able to get the story from the intern herself, Anne Birney, a Communications major in her junior at University of Delaware. Birney applied for the position upon learning of the opening from her stepfather.
As HFHNCC’s first Marketing/PR intern, Birney helps write press releases and media advisories, takes photos at home dedications and build days, keeps the website updated and brainstorms new marketing strategies for the organization. She also works on their weekly e-mail blast and is involved in long-term projects. The internship has given her the real-world experience she was seeking in trying to determine the path she would take within her major.
“Habitat has done a great job of not only keeping me busy but also have taken the time to teach me the ins and outs of PR and marketing – which is exactly what I was looking for in my internship…there’s never a dull day,” said Birney.
Birney receives a weekly checklist of assignments from her supervisor that encourages communication and ensures that both understand the tasks at hand in the same way. In this case, there was a need expressed by both parties that was remedied with an internship program. While it’s just getting started, HFHNCC’s new endeavor has proven to be very effective.
We would like to continue this discussion! If you want to share your internship programs, please contact Denee Crumrine at firstname.lastname@example.org for a future compilation.