Internship Program 301: From Intern to Employee and Beyond

“We want interns to be future employees, and if we don’t hire the right culture now, we are not going to have it in six months,” says David Barnes, a Houston-based HR manager. According to Human Resource Executive, demographic signs are pointing to a shortage of workers in the near future, and a growing number of organizations are starting to view their internship programs as more crucial opportunities to recruit potential future employees.

The Facts and Figures

According to Inc. Magazine, a National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) survey of 276 U.S. employers showed that nearly 90% had an internship program in place – and it’s not just large employers any more. “In recent years, fast growing businesses have begun tapping into a student internship market once dominated by big corporations,” according to Inc. Magazine. From the same NACE survey, employers reported that 30.7% of their new college hires came from an internship program. At GE, more than 600 interns are hired into full-time employement every year – and of the interns offered jobs, 90% accept the invitation. (Human Resource Executive) That’s a pretty high retention rate.

Keeping Interns Engaged

One of the keys to developing talented interns into full-time employees is engagement. Gone are the days of having interns make coffee or act as a gofer. Companies that keep great interns are offering them real experience. According to Lore Postman, a Charlotte-based business writer, companies should avoid using interns for such things as a quick fix for clerical shorthandedness. Interns that stay with organizations are getting more challenging assignments like designing pages on company websites or conducting research on the floor of a chemical lab, according to Postman.

Going the extra mile…

Besides offering competitive pay rates and engaging work, some employers are offering special benefits to interns. Charles Schwab offers interns stock options on top of a weekly paycheck. Fed Ex offers interns corporate housing and paid travel expenses. According to Barnes, spending that extra bit of time and money is worth it – “Our philosophy is that we are making an investment in the future of the company…”

To read the previous two posts in this series, click below:
Internship Program 201: How to Recruit Tomorrow’s Top Talent
Internship Program 101: Building an Effective Internship Program

Sources: “Intern-al Affairs”, Julie Cook Ramirez, Human Resource Executive; “Why Interns Are Good for Business”, Angus Loten, Feb 2008; “Turn Interns Into Employees”, Lore Postman,

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