Introduction:

The Monterey Bay Internships (MBI) website (mbinterns.org) is designed to accommodate both students seeking internships and employers seeking interns. The site makes it easy for students and employers to connect. However, simply making the connection between the two is not enough. Students are in need of meaningful and productive work experiences that will enable them to be competitive in the job market upon graduation.

The goal of the Employer Toolkit is to give employers in the Monterey Bay area the tools and guidance they need to provide a fulfilling internship opportunity for students. By providing a quality internship experience for students, employers not only play a critical role in maximizing the benefits to students, but they also increase their return on investment.

What is an internship?

An internship is any carefully monitored, meaningful work experience in which individuals have intentional professional goals and reflect on what they are accomplishing throughout the process. The goal of MBI is to prepare the next generation of workers to gain experience to seamlessly transition into the workforce. Additionally, many employers find it beneficial to train or give specialized knowledge to interns in an attempt to assimilate them into their organization in the future. Ideally, an internship is an investment in not only the student’s future, but the company’s future as well.

Internships are defined by:

  • A predetermined duration, agreed upon by the student and the organization prior to hire
  • Responsibilities assigned from employer are in alignment with student’s learning objectives
  • Opportunity to earn academic credit, if applicable, based on college offerings
  • A flexible work schedule to accommodate the student’s academic schedule
  • Professional training given by the employer that supports the student’s academic achievements
  • Predetermined compensation that is agreed upon prior to hire; unpaid positions, particularly if they are designed to earn academic credit are suitable as well

Internships are not:

  • Free labor
  • Mainly busy work
  • A burden on a current employee’s schedule
  • A replacement of a regular employee’s position

Legal Issues for Employers

While internships provide various benefits to employers and students, unpaid interns are at risk of being taken advantage of financially. Employers who exhibit a failure to fairly compensate employees for their work are at risk of legal repercussions. It is essential that all employers are fully aware of rules and regulations regarding internships, both paid and unpaid. More information can be found at the US Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division (WHD) website and this link to Fact Sheet #71: Internship Programs Under The Fair Labor Standards Act.

The Benefits of Internships1

Benefits to students:

  • Learn more about an industry of interest
  • Prepare for the tasks and services that are required in your respective fields
  • Develop the necessary skills to transition into the workforce
  • Provide broad exposure to a work environment
  • Offer networking opportunities that can lead to relationships with professionals
  • Offer exposure to deadlines and to challenging and relevant projects

Benefits to employers:

  • Discover whether an intern is a good fit for the organization in the future
  • Recruit diverse members into your workforce
  • Gain a fresh perspective on your business practices and culture
  • Provide management opportunities for mid-level staff
  • Add extra resources to your team in a cost-effective manner

Benefits to the community:

  • Fosters a more professional workforce
  • Encourages local talent to stay in the area
  • Strengthens employer ties to education which promote alignment of supply and demand for skills

Interview Best Practices

Know what you CAN and CANNOT ask during an interview:2
State and federal laws have been established to prohibit discrimination in the workplace and the hiring process. The process used for hiring interns must also comply with all employment regulations. There are many questions that legally cannot be asked during an interview. Many of these questions relate to age, disability, marital/family status, height/weight, race, and ethnicity, to name a few.

Questions that CAN be asked (but are not limited to):

  • Are you 18 or older?
  • Would you be willing to relocate if necessary?
  • Do you have responsibilities or commitments that will prevent you from meeting specified work schedules?
  • Are you able to lift a 50-lb weight and carry it 100 yards?
  • Are you able to perform the essential functions of this job with or without reasonable accommodations? (This is a legal question as long as the requirement was specified in job description.)
  • Will you be able to carry out, in a safe manner, all job assignments necessary for this position?
  • Do you speak any different languages (including sign) that would be helpful in doing this job? (This is a legal question as long as the requirement was specified in job description.)
  • Are you authorized to work in the United States?
  • Talk about your membership in professional or trade groups that you consider relevant to your ability to perform your job.

Questions that CANNOT be asked (but are not limited to):

  • Are you married or do you have a permanent partner?
  • Are you pregnant?
  • Do you expect to become pregnant or have a family? When? How many children will you have?
  • What are your childcare arrangements?
  • How tall are you?
  • Do you have any disabilities?
  • Have you ever been arrested?
  • When did you lose your eyesight/ leg/ hearing/ etc.?
  • What is your native language?
  • How old are you?
  • What clubs or social organizations do you belong to?

Orientation

Getting an intern acclimated to the workplace is an important first step. Plan on spending time with the intern to help get them oriented and feel welcome in the office. It is best not to overwhelm the intern with too much information on the first day. Orientation programs should be set up as an ongoing process, not a one-day event. Here are some suggestions on how to best structure an effective orientation:

  • Send a welcome email to the intern prior to the first day, including start date and arrival time, directions and parking information, and frequently asked questions from previous interns
  • Create a list of items that need to be covered on the first day
  • Show the intern an organizational chart
  • Describe the organization’s culture
  • Communicate how the intern will fit in with the organization
  • Ensure that the manager has ample time to dedicate to the intern on the first day

Managing Your Intern

Set goals:

  • Determine which projects you would like to assign the intern
  • Decide the time commitment required for each project
  • Assign your intern challenging and skill-building tasks
  • Select a mentor who will work closely with the intern within the organization
  • Determine whether the internship will be paid or unpaid and part-time or full-time
  • Be sure that the internship objective and training components are laid out ahead of time
  • Determine the areas of responsibility for the intern, within one functional area or across multiple areas

Exit Interviews

Exit interviews are valuable because they provide feedback to an organization about the internship program that it is providing. The organization can determine whether the experience was a positive one for the intern and if any changes should be made to the position. Exit interviews are fantastic resources for the success of future interns.

Monterey Bay Internships: Terms and Conditions

Every employer and student who registers with mbinterns.org is required to sign the Terms and Condition on our website.

References

1) “Employer Guide to Structuring a Successful Internship Program.” (n.d.): n. pag. The University of Rhode Island. University of Rhode Island. Web. 15 Mar. 2016.
2) “Giving Back to Your Community through an Internship Program.” Intern Matters. Internships.com, 31 Mar. 2010. Web. 15 Mar. 2016.