Revisiting Best Practices for Engaging Summer Interns
Summer’s coming. Whether or not your local weather forecast still calls for cold, rain and snow, tank tops, flip flops and lazy days at the pool will be here before you know it. So too will be annual efforts to source and manage intern resources for the summer season. What follows in this post is a kind of “best of” culled from previous years’ posts on the do’s and don’ts of engaging summer interns as part of your workforce mix.
As we’ve said before, internship programs for contingent workers can be a win for all involved. For the hiring organization, it provides an ongoing channel relationship wherein children of trusted/proven employees can secure gainful employment within well-known businesses and brands. For interns, these programs provide invaluable on-the-job experience that is so difficult for new entrants to any industry to attain fresh out of school.
Savvy contingent workforce managers know, done right, tapping pools of existing workers can provide a steady stream of temporary resources. Forward-thinking managers even foster relationships with local colleges, universities and trade schools, launching intern programs together with their local higher education institutions. This is a great way to ensure a supply of talent with the latest training and perspectives in any given field. The relationship between a school and an internship program may be leveraged for positive mutual publicity value and can 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 there is a lot of value to capture leveraging summer intern talent, there are some pitfalls to be aware of as well. With the utilization of interns as a worker type more widely occurring, there has been a corresponding rise in IRS and DOL audits and penalties for misuse of intern resources. The short story is, depending on how the job is structured, some internships can be unpaid, while others must be paid. So we’ve reprinted the six-point test from the US Dept. of Labor Fact Sheet #71 which explains the six criteria applied in the assessment of candidates for non-paid internships:
- The internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment;
- The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern;
- The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff;
- The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded;
- The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship; and
- The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.
Know the difference between paid and unpaid internships so you don’t run afoul of the law. Fair Labor Standards Act regulations govern the utilization of non-paid interns in for-profit businesses and this is an area where the DOL knows the potential for abuse is higher. Consider engaging a good MSP to ensure any staffing providers serving their programs to perform the six-point test laid out by the FLSA. This ensures that any interns assigned by the MSP represent no risk to the customer. Summer is coming. Be ready!
This blog is a follow up from an earlier one: