nextSourcing Part 4: How Intern Programs are Improving the Contingent Workforce


This is the final installment of our four-part series on nextSourcing.  After focusing on how recruitment, alumni, and social networks are impacting the nature and efficacy of the contemporary contingent workforce, we’re going to wrap up this series with a brief look at the role played by internship programs.

Once an unpaid, extracurricular activity offered to the children of executives or ambitious local university students as a way of gaining some insight into the business environment, internships today have grown to become a full-fledged worker classification. They are no longer simply an activity favored by privileged youth.

Whether due to the shift in employment trends spurred by globalization or the last major recession, internships have become a gateway into more lucrative careers in associated fields. In 2010, the US Department of Labor produced a six-point list of factors for categorizing a worker as an intern and mandated that interns must be paid, thereby making the position a far more concrete proposition than ever before.  But what does an intern and/or intern program bring to the workforce mix that makes internships a net positive for an organization?

For one thing, when associated with a particular college, university, or other higher education organization, an internship program for contingent workers yields a win for all involved. For the school, it provides an ongoing channel relationship for its students and alumni to secure gainful employment with well-known businesses and brands.  For the student, it provides invaluable on-the-job experience that is so difficult for new entrants to any industry to attain fresh out of school. For the contingent workforce manager, these programs provide a steady stream of temporary resources, often with the latest training and perspectives in any given field.  The relationship between a school and an internship program may be leveraged for positive publicity value and help burnish the employer’s hiring brand and reputation.  It also provides the hiring organization with the ability to cull from the best and brightest if they wish to convert top-performing interns into full-time employees.

While the nature of work typically assigned to interns may not always be the most mission-critical, it is often highly specialized in nature, which allows a contingent workforce manager to add yet another highly specific resource to his or her portfolio of worker types and correlated tasks.

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