Training Your Interns: An Investment in Your Company’s Future

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Training Your Interns: An Investment in Your Company’s Future

Providing employees with opportunities for training and development is typically framed in terms of a long term investment by the employer. You, the employer, invest time and resources into developing an employee’s skill set and in turn they become a more valuable contributor. Ideally, this employee feels appreciated and valued enough to stick around and make your investment worthwhile.

So why, according to the 2014 Intern & Recent Grad Survey, do almost half (44%) of the Northeast Ohio organizations that participated provide one or more formalized training opportunities to their interns? Plus, as it turns out, the training and development of interns doesn’t stop with formal training programs, but also includes a wide variety of valuable development tools that can be applied to any employee.

So let’s take a closer look at what organizations are doing in the region to invest in training and development opportunities for their interns and why this long term investment could actually pay off in the short term for your organization.

Formal Training

At the most basic level, interns will need to receive job specific training in order to operate on a day-to-day basis during their internship. Organizations cite specific software programs, organizational policies & procedures, and subject matter specific or technical training as examples of these more formalized training opportunities. Other organizations make use of low or no cost trainings to get the most for their money, leveraging e-learning, in-house trainings, and in-person or online seminars already being offered to full-time employees.

In highly technical fields, such as finance or IT, some employers even go so far as to help interns obtain industry specific certifications during their internship.

Although these certifications can be more costly than the other options spelled out above, letting intern candidates know up-front that a certain certification is offered as part of your internship program can be a great way to recruit the best and brightest students to your organization.

Other Development Opportunities

Intern development can and should start on the intern’s very first day (if not before). For many students, an internship may be their first exposure to the real workforce and can be intimidating. For this reason, almost 90% of employers locally provide an orientation to interns within one week of their first day on the job. Although it may seem banal to more experienced new employees, an orientation is great way to help interns acclimate to their new environment and get a feel for the business culture they just entered.

This support from day one, can be continued throughout the course of the internship in the form of regular feedback and coaching, access to a mentor, and performance evaluation: all of which fall under the umbrella of training & development. In addition, according to the 2014 Intern & Recent Grad Survey, one or more of these less formal training & development opportunities are offered as part of the internship programs at the majority of Northeast Ohio organizations.

The Pay Off

To reap the benefits of an intern exposed to training and development opportunities during their tenure at your organization, one needs only to look at the reasons why organizations choose to have an internship program at all.

The top reasons for using interns have remained remarkably consistent over the years and are typically made up of some combination of the following:

  1. Developing a talent pipeline
  2. Assisting with special project work
  3. Obtaining affordable workforce support
  4. Gaining exposure at colleges & universities
  5. Testing potential employees before hiring them

The first and last in this list are most clearly linked to a longer timeline that would justify investing in training for interns. If your interns of today become your employees of tomorrow, getting them up to speed on the latest and greatest skills as early as possible in their career with your organization is a great way to get a head start on employee development.

Numbers two and three may seem less relevant at first, but in reality no one wants an incompetent employee or intern causing issues, even if it’s just when doing some filing. Having a supervisor walk a new intern through the steps in a process to make sure it is done correctly may not seem like a huge investment in training, but it’s a start.

It can also be a learning opportunity to help develop delegation and supervisory skills for a more junior supervisor that you may be grooming for future management opportunities. Even better, pair the intern with a mentor to help guide them through their time at your organization and develop their skill set along the way. The intern feels valued, and an existing employee learns how to mentor others.

Finally, if your organization’s goal for your internship program is to gain exposure at colleges and universities (and ultimately recruit talented new graduates to your organization), providing training and development opportunities to your interns is as critical as ever before. In the face paced, social media driven, online world that students live in, word travels fast!

Did one of their peers have a boring summer shuffling papers and fetching coffee, or did they have an engaging, hands on experience that taught them a lot about their field of study in a real world setting? Although training is only one part of determining what their next tweet will be about your organization, it can help you stand out as a great place to work for both interns and future employees alike.

View the Intern & Recent Graduate Pay Rates & Practices Survey

This survey reports data from Northeast Ohio employers about their internship and recent graduate employment and pay practices.

View the Results