Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Summer interns 101

Sue Wolf //June 4, 2014//

Summer interns 101

Sue Wolf //June 4, 2014//

Summer internships can be highly beneficial for both employers and students. Employers are given the opportunity to observe the work of interns and vet for future hires, and students are able to gain real-world experience and get their foot in the door prior to graduating.

It can be easy, however, for employers to feel like they are providing the intern with a service and fall into the trap of thinking that they can use internships to get labor without having to pay for it. Although there are some exceptions, under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), anyone who is permitted to perform work that is controlled or required by an employer primarily for the benefit of the employer or their business must be compensated for the services they perform. It’s also important to note, that an employee cannot waive their rights under FLSA by agreeing to work without compensation. The Department of Labor has been coming down more frequently on businesses because of the significant number of employers who try to go around the law.

If a summer internship seems like a good fit for a business, it is important for employers to keep a few things in mind:

Make the internship valuable for the student – While making copies and brewing coffee may be tasks that need to get done, it’s important to not limit an intern to this type of grunt work. To make sure an internship is not just beneficial for the business, but for the student as well, provide them with the opportunity to make a real contribution to the team.

Be transparent – It’s important to make interns feel like a member of the team, but remember, most interns will have limited experience which makes open lines of communication and clear and reasonable expectations for work, attire and behavior imperative.

Be flexible – Be mindful that interns are students and may have classes or other summer activities that can make a traditional work schedule challenging. Communicate expectations on work hours, but be reasonable.

Mentor – Depending on experience levels, give interns the opportunity to own small projects or take the first attempt on larger projects, but be prepared to offer guidance, answer questions and provide honest feedback.

Compensation – While some interns are able to work for college credits and monetary compensation varies based on industry and level of experience, a good starting point when determining a hire-in rate is to take a look at the average rates in the local job market. According to a recent survey by Mountain States Employers Council, the average hourly hire-in rate in 2014 for technical students specializing in engineering, computer science or mathematics is $15.97. The same survey found that the average hourly hire-in rate for administrative students specializing in finance, human resources or information systems is $13.99.

As summer quickly approaches and a new group of college students and recent graduates begin looking to gain real-world experience through internships, it’s important for employers to consider the benefits of hiring an intern while also considering the time and dedication it takes to making an internship successful for both the student and their business. Local experts at Mountain States Employers Council are available to discuss the laws and regulations surrounding internships and can help address concerns specific to Colorado businesses.