Working With Student Interns: Understanding the Types of Placements

group of people with computers sitting around table
group of people with computers sitting around table

Internships are opportunities for students or individuals outside of your organization to come work on various tasks you need support with. They can be in a variety of industries and assigned a variety of tasks – marketing, sales, finance, legal, technology, fine or performing arts etc. Internships typically last the duration of a semester and summer internships are usually most popular because students do not have barriers with balancing school and work.

Hiring an intern to help you build your startup isn’t only beneficial to you but to the intern you hire as well. Here are a few benefits to hiring an intern:

  • It is a cost-effective program and training opportunity for companies that do not currently have a lot of income to make full-time hires
  • Helps outline skills required for future hires
  • The interns are usually eager to learn which means they are likely to take on projects in the hopes that those projects will help further their career and education
  • Gives you an opportunity to explore supervising experience for team members looking to develop leadership skills

Types of Internship Placements

There are a few different placement types you may want to consider offering to students to help support you in the roles you need support in. We’ve outlined them for you below:

Paid vs. Unpaid Internships

You have the option of choosing whether or not you want to offer an internship as a paid or unpaid opportunity if the work is performed under an academic program.

Unpaid internships should offer a high potential for growth with access to leaders who can dedicate their time to educating the interns on the industry, line of work and any skills they find useful for the career path the student is looking for. The unpaid interns should also be compensated with free food, networking opportunities, letters of recommendation, etc. 

Note that unpaid internships cannot replace the role of an employee and are illegal in Ontario unless they are receiving academic credit, receiving training for a specific profession, or fulfills the six requirements that classify them as a trainee, according to the Employment Standards Act.

Credit vs Non-Credit Internships

Internships can be part of a course or program where the student receives a credit for working with you for the semester. Internships can also be extracurricular where the intern is looking for opportunities to learn new skills, gain experience and have mentorship. 

If an internship is for course credit, the area the intern is focused on in school must be related to the placement they choose. They may be required to complete weekly logs, mini-assignments and provide regular updates to their teacher.

On-Location vs Virtual Internships

Internships can be both physical and virtual – physical meaning that the intern works with you in your office or co-working space; virtual meaning the intern works remotely from home and communicates with you through email, Slack or another method.

On-location internships tend to be more beneficial for the intern because they get to experience what it is like to work in an office with a team. They get better integrated into the culture of the office and communication is a lot easier. 

With the COVID-19 pandemic shifting the world of work, internships had to go virtual and interns had to learn to work in a remote environment. While not the same experience, the intern still gets the opportunity to learn and grow with you and your team.

How to Implement a Successful Internship Program

Once you have decided that you want to have an intern and you have picked the type of internship you want to offer, there are a few things you want to have in order to ensure the internship remains beneficial for both you and the intern. 

  1. Program Leader/Owner – you need someone on your team who is going to be able to meet with the intern, delegate tasks and provide a clear course of action for the projects they will be working on. If you do not have the time to dedicate to leading your intern, they will not get the benefit of learning and growing and you will not get the benefit of having someone actually complete work for you. Keep in mind there should also be an onboarding and offboarding process.
  2. Meaningful + Focused Work – if you are going to hire an intern, ensure you have meaningful work for them to complete. Do not give them random tasks just to fill their day but instead give them projects they may actually work on in a standard work day.

Here at Altitude Accelerator, we know that building a startup can be difficult. That’s why we created a blog series called #HelpMeStartup designed to clear up some common confusions among first-time startup entrepreneurs. 

For more hands-on support, register as a Altitude Accelerator client to get access to all our tech-startup focused programming and resources.

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