Hiring Interns - Career Connections Center at Westmoreland County Community College

Hiring Interns

Outlined below is general information about internship development. 

If you’d like to talk with someone personally about internships for Westmoreland students, please contact Diane Metz at Metzd@westmoreland.edu or (724)925-4167 with any questions.

Internship opportunities for Westmoreland students can be posted for free at Purple Briefcase

Definition

An internship is:

  • An on-site work experience directly related to career goals and/or field(s) of interest
  • Supervised, emphasizing learning and professional development
  • Evaluative, provides system for feedback and communication
  • Either paid, unpaid, for-credit, not-for-credit

An internship is not:

  • Routine, repetitive tasks unrelated to identified learning goals
  • A job that does not offer career related learning opportunities and experiences
  • Unsupervised, not evaluated experiences
  • An internship is not doing tasks in a workplace but rather learning and growing professionally.

Quick Points:

  • Internship positions are available from businesses, government departments, non-profit groups and organizations.
  • Credit or non-credit internships can be done during the fall, spring and summer
  • An internship can be paid or unpaid. (A volunteer can also be categorized as an unpaid intern.)
  • Student interns have a supervisor onsite with experience in the students’ area of interest.

Benefits of Supervising an Internship/Practicum Student

  • Students have a desire to learn and make contributions to businesses/agencies
  • Students are up-to-date on cutting edge concepts and knowledge
  • Internships/practicums offer an effective way for companies to locate and train motivated students to fill immediate needs
  • Internships create a valuable pipeline of talent for a future workforce
  • Internships allow employers to pre-screen potential employees for ability, habits, interpersonal skills and adaptability before making a full-time offer, and students get to learn about a company before making a commitment
  • Employers can seamlessly convert interns to full-time employees who can be productive immediately

Getting Started

The most successful experiences require time and effort on the part of supervisors. Interns can provide valuable support to a department and fill a role or help get a project off the ground. However, it takes time upfront from a supervisor and a commitment to provide the necessary time while the intern is in place.

The first steps of enlisting interns should be planning intern roles and responsibilities. Managers should take the time to draft a basic job description. In addition to planning meaningful activities, supervisors or other employees need to make arrangements for the intern’s workspace, supplies and computer access.

Once interns are on board, managers should plan on providing them with basic training and appropriate supervision. Also, a top-notch internship position will incorporate feedback and mentoring (through learning agreements and evaluations). 

Last but not least, managers can sometimes benefit from a reminder that, while interns can provide valuable support to a department.

Internships are by definition learning experiences. As such, it is essential to:

  • Determine learning objectives aligned with the student's program of study
  • Identify meaningful tasks and responsibilities for the intern
  • Make sure you have commitment of all levels of department for an intern
  • Wages for the intern (if paid)
  • Determine the direct supervisor (mentor)
  • Provide a work environment description
  • Identify specific requirements (must attend conferences, trainings, etc)
  • Provide the Career Connections Center Team information about the qualifications sought: equipment, software, language skills, interpersonal skills,  prior experience, coursework, class level, major
  • Orient the intern upon arrival

Steps to Developing a Successful Internship/Practicum Experience

Step 1: Define Intern Role/Responsibilities

One of the most fundamentally important steps to bringing an intern into your organization is to define ahead of time what the intern will do; not doing so is a disservice to everyone involved. The last thing an intern wants or your organization needs is to have an intern regularly showing up without his/her work tasks adequately predefined.

An intern’s job description should address the roles of the intern in terms of projects or ongoing responsibilities. (This need not be overly detailed or long. Often four or five sentences can adequately spell out, at least initially, what an intern will do.)

Step 2: Determine Duration/Timing of Internship

Westmoreland students completing an internship for credit must complete a minimum of 180 hours and practicum students a minimum of 120 students during the semester.

If your company is paying an intern, you may be able to bring them on for a longer period of time.

Remember that students are operating on a college or university calendar.

Step 3: To Pay or Not to Pay

Based on the industry of the employer, and the length of time an intern is wanted (e.g., 3 months vs. a year or more) a decision should be made upfront whether or not to pay the intern. Some employers have found, or believe, that paid interns are more committed to the organization and well worth the money. Many colleges need to handle paid and unpaid internship requests differently. For this and other reasons, the pay issue should be decided before recruiting applicants.

Naturally, students are almost always more drawn to paid rather than unpaid internship positions. This is especially true in the summertime. In fields that don’t typically pay interns, there are still students ready and wanting worthwhile, unpaid internship experiences.

Step 4: Training, Supervising, and Evaluating Interns

Just like new employees, interns will need a certain amount of training and orientation to facilitate the transition into your organization. Simple matters like work space allocation, parking permits, ID cards, and general company information should be planned out before the intern’s arrival.

Colleges and universities vary greatly in the amount of oversight they give to interns. Your organization will provide the fundamental supervision. A primary or individual supervisor should be designated. This person should be someone who is usually available to the intern, not someone who is often out of the office or tied up all day in meetings.

The supervisor will be sent an intern evaluation form to be completed mid-semester and at the conclusion of the internship/practicum period. Again, like employees, interns will benefit from ongoing feedback as well as at the end of the experience.

Step 5: Before the Intern Leaves

  • Finish any evaluations required
  • Make sure the intern returns any department property
  • Have intern leave contact information (if you think they may be someone you’d want to contact about upcoming positions)
  • Make sure intern keeps up the momentum (they shouldn’t slack off the last couple of weeks)
  • Say “Thank You”
  • Write a letter of recommendation (if their work warranted it)

Before an intern completely finishes, a supervisor might arrange for “career information and advice meetings” with a few professionals outside of the interns’ immediate work setting. These meetings can be extremely helpful to a young person who may soon be trying to break into a profession or industry upon graduation.

Thank you for hosting a student for their internship or practicum!