If the pandemic has made you rethink your workplace structure or question the strength of your company's remote flexibility and digital fingerprint, then interns may be just what you need. With an eagerness to learn and the fresh outlook of a new generation, interns can add value to any organization. The only issue is: do you know how to start an internship program?
If not, we can offer insight. In this piece, we’ll outline all the details, including:
- Short-term and long-term benefits of internship programs
- Requirements for employers hosting interns
- Methods for recruiting international interns
- Role of sponsors in an internship program
- Tips for onboarding interns
But first: why start an internship program?
Why Start an Internship Program?
Forming a brand new internship is no small task. This means that your company’s “why” needs to be at the forefront of the conversation, so the whole team will be on board and work hard to make the program happen.
Your “why” should include company-specific advantages. However, there are also a host of more general benefits that all internship programs can create. We’ll outline them below.
Short-Term Benefits of an Internship Program
Internship programs boast a long list of short-term benefits. These include:
- Increased opportunity to delegate
- Ability to mentor and teach
- Fresh perspective on company procedures and processes
How to Run an Internship Program: Delegate
Interns start programs eager to learn and take on new responsibilities. Therefore, if there’s an intern in your department, there is also ample opportunity to shift some tasks onto their plate.
This could look like reverse shadowing an intern while they fill out a database or cold call a lead. It could also look like asking a trained intern to take charge of some department communications.
The bottomline is that interns want to learn by doing, rather than sit back and watch the team all day. If there’s a low-priority task on your plate, chances are an intern would be happy to take it on.
How to Run an Internship Program: Mentor
Beyond making your day-to-day more lightweight, internship programs also provide an opportunity for mentorship. While mentoring is rewarding in itself, it also gives employees opportunities to:
- Exercise and improving leadership skills
- Hone communication abilities
- Learn through teaching
- Build their global network
When one team member has the opportunity to grow these skills through a company internship program, the whole organization reaps the benefits.
How to Run an Internship Program: Listen
During an internship program, you’ll teach, but you’ll also learn.
Gen Z interns grew up online and their digital competencies have only grown throughout the pandemic. Even if your team is extra tech-savvy, an intern is likely to notice where processes can be expedited, automated, or otherwise improved.
Listening to your intern’s advice can boost productivity while they’re on the job. Plus, if you choose to implement their ideas long-term, their insight will improve workflow long past the program end date.
Long-Term Benefits of an Internship Program
Internships also offer many long-term benefits; most notably, the creation of an international hiring pipeline to connect your company with global talent for years to come. Hiring from an intern pool can help your team ensure that you’re bringing new staff onboard who will mesh with the existing team.
A global talent acquisition funnel can benefit your company for years to come.
While launching an intern program takes work, risk, and an eye for the future, it also requires companies to take a proactive approach to hiring.
Too often, gaps between hires leave current team members scrambling to pick up the slack. This may be viable for a few days, but not long-term, so how can your company close these employment gaps?
Pulling applicants from a tried-and-true pool of interns is a great option, and common practice.
The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) reported that the majority of employers polled on a 2015 survey said they find entry-level, full-time hires through their internship programs.
The process is solid; after hiring an intern and working with them for 6-12 months, your team will have a good sense of whether they’ll fit in your company structure full-time. This is a low-risk process, since:
- Interns cost less than full-time hires
- Interns understand that participating in a program does not guarantee a full-time position
- Interns aren’t meant to fill employment gaps and don’t take on high-level tasks; if they’re a bad fit, your team won’t have to scramble to assume their workload
When it comes to international hires, testing the waters with an internship is even more beneficial, since bringing someone on from overseas requires additional paperwork.
Finally, a peripheral–but no less important–benefit of hiring interns is improving the hiring process.
As your team learns how to start an internship program, the hiring procedure will become airtight. Whether or not you plan to hire full-time staff from your pool of previous interns, perfecting your process of screening, interviewing, and bringing applicants aboard will serve your company well next time a vacancy is on the horizon.
Requirements for Running an International Internship Program
Any good internship program needs to meet a few benchmarks. One of these benchmarks is qualified and reliable employers. That’s why, at Global Internships, we ask that our host companies meet some reasonable requirements before they begin hiring interns.
What’s a J-1 Visa Sponsor?
Many of these company requirements deal with the relationship between sponsors and host companies. Sponsors (like us) are U.S. Department of State-appointed entities that back individuals pursuing visas in the U.S.
Sponsors screen applicants, help connect them to programs, provide crucial documents throughout the visa process, and supply emergency support during visa holders’ stays in the U.S.
At Intrax Global Internships, our specialty is working with individuals pursuing Exchange Visitor (J-1) visas. J-1 visas allow foreign nationals to complete a variety of programs in the U.S. (including internships) for varying periods, but generally no more than 18 months. The visa is not a step on the immigration process, but rather an opportunity for cultural exchange and global professional development.
Communicating with J-1 Visa Sponsors
As a prospective host company, sponsors will be an invaluable resource for you in:
- Ensuring the legality of your program
- Validating that interns you hire have adequate experience, appropriate language skills, and are prepared for the program
- Supporting your interns if any visa issues arise while in the U.S.
Throughout an internship program, the relationship between sponsors and host organizations is mutually beneficial. Sponsors take care of legalities. Host organizations deliver a quality internship. To make everything run smoothly, we require that host companies we work with:
- Communicate with us about any changes you make to the approved internship plan
- Contact us immediately if there is an emergency involving an intern
- Follow our host company rules and regulations (listed below)
Delivering a Quality Internship Program
At Global Internship, we are committed to connecting our prospective visa holders with top-of-the-line experiences. That’s why–aside from communicating regularly with visa sponsors–we ask that host companies:
- Supervise interns
- Mentor interns
- Make trained personnel, equipment, and relevant resources available to interns
- Abide by relevant laws and regulations
Internships are jobs, but they are also learning experiences. That’s why we expect host companies to create and deliver structured activities to enrich the experience. There are a few ways to do this. Your company could choose to have interns rotate through multiple departments so they have the chance to learn a wide variety of tasks and processes. You could also provide classroom or on-the-job training. Finally, you could invite interns to attend relevant conferences with coworkers.
Internship Program Restrictions
We understand that interns can participate in a huge variety of programs. You may be representing a hospitality corporation or a tech startup. While we allow for flexibility in internship tasks based on field, there are some government-enforced restrictions we’ll introduce here.
First, interns on J-1 visas may not work in aviation, perform casual labor, or fill any positions that have the potential to reflect negatively on the Department of State.
They are also not allowed to provide child, elder, or patient care. This means that–generally speaking–work at daycares, nursing homes, or hospitals is out of the question.
Because internships are focused on professional development and career growth, internship programs cannot include more than 20% clerical work. Essentially, interns cannot function as administrative assistants.
And finally, if you’re running a hospitality & tourism internship, you must build at least three rotations into the program. There’s no one required way to do this, so you can shape the rotations to your needs.
For example, interns can cycle through three different departments over the course of the program. Alternatively, the internship could include three separate functional phases within a single department.
How to Start an Internship Program:
Ready to launch an internship program? Wondering how to start? We’ll take you through the steps and explain how we can support you as a J-1 visa sponsor.
The basic timeline is:
- Partner with a sponsor
- Recruit globally
- Onboard interns
1: Partner with a Sponsor
As we explained above, sponsors are a necessary component of any J-1 visa application process. They prepare Exchange Visitors to travel abroad, guide them through all the paperwork necessary to secure a visa, and check-in during the program. Since these entities are critical to the success of any international internship program, it’s important to find and choose sponsors wisely.
At Intrax, we support companies from start to finish. This means that we:
- Supply host companies with top talent
- Provide visa assistance (from issuing the DS-2019 to sharing interview advice)
- Connect interns with insurance
- Evaluate English language proficiency
- Check in and provide emergency support during the program
- Monitor government compliance throughout internships
If you choose to work with us as your sponsor for a global internship program, you can rest easy knowing we have decades of experience sending individuals abroad.
Why Work With Us? Internship Program Case Studies
Our corporate customers routinely sing the praises of our processes and the interns we send their way. The appreciation is mutual; we’re consistently impressed by host companies’ organization, dedication, and energy.
Below, we’ll highlight a few organizations we work with so you can get a sense of what it’s like to partner with us as a sponsor.
Equilar: Connect with Fantastic Interns
Equilar is an excellent provider of executive data. In fact, they’re the #1 provider of executive data, delivering information on over 500,000 executives and board members to over 1,000 public and private company clients.
Diversity is one of Equilar’s key principles, and running an international internship program allows them to mobilize this value.
Megan Lum, a Human Resources manager, shared that the Intrax interns Equilar works with “have all had fantastic work ethic, positive attitudes, and willingness to support our business in just about any area.”
Not only does Equilar’s internship program tie directly into their goal of advancing racial, ethnic, and gender diversity in boardrooms all over, but it also provides them with fantastic talent to propel the company forward.
Omnium: Receive Excellent Training Resources
Omnium is a firm founded by University of Waterloo graduates that specializes in full-service go-to-market strategy and sales optimization for CPG businesses. Omnium is fully committed to creating quality internship and mentorship programs for students ready to develop skills in a real-life work environment.
At Intrax Global Internships, we provide J-1 support to the Omnium team, ranging from handling insurance to social security needs. We also deliver training to the Exchange Visitors we sponsor, which Omnium CEO John Valeriote recognized as “a key differentiator in the J-1 global internship space.”
Our training program prompted the Omnium team to improve how they managed their internship programs, increasing the value for all teams.
Robinhood: Navigate Bureaucracy with Ease
Robinhood is a fin-tech company with a Global Mobility program projected to grow by 100% in the next year.
We work with Robinhood as a one-stop shop for their visa needs; supplying visa and legal oversight to interns, making sure all Exchange Visitors are medically insured, and following up with teams to see if the program is successful.
Above all, Robinhood’s team appreciates that we don’t complicate the already-confusing business of working in the U.S. on a visa.
Amy Jennison, the Program Manager of Global Mobility at Robinhood, shared that “Intrax offers an easy to navigate process between buyer "us" and our students with great communication and customer service. This is a complex process and they are proactive where many in their business category are not."
2: Recruit Globally
We’ve been doing this for years, and therefore have a robust network of partners around the globe that we trust to connect us with qualified talent. Pulling on this network, we work with companies to find applicants that meet their needs.
No matter what space you’re in, we can likely find you a great candidate. We work with companies in:
- Arts; Culture
- Hospitality; Tourism
- Information; Media; Communications
- Management; Business; Commerce; Finance
- Public Admin; Law
- STEM; Industrial Occupations
Whatever your team is looking for, we can match you with an intern who meets your needs with relevant skills.
3: Onboard Interns
Once your team hires an intern, you will work with them to create an Internship Plan. This is both beneficial to your team, and a required step in the visa application process.
The Internship Placement Plan lives on a form called the DS-7002. The form asks for basic company information, including:
- Employer ID Number
- The number of hours interns will work per week (minimum is 32)
- Information about a Worker’s Compensation policy (if applicable)
- Number of full-time employees at the company
- Annual revenue
Once that’s done, you’ll need to create the internship plan. This does not need to be lengthy, but must include:
- The role of the intern at the company
- The departments in which they will work
- The specific tasks they will take on
- The cultural activities that the host company will involve the intern in
If you run into difficulties completing this form, you can reach out to us with questions.
While we provide pre-departure training to all our Exchange Visitors, it is the host company’s job to onboard interns. To make this process successful:
- Send interns the onboarding agenda before they arrive
- Set up accounts for the intern (email, etc.) pre-arrival
- Encourage questions
- Approach interns with a welcoming attitude
Deliver a Quality Internship Experience
Global interns travel to the U.S. for professional development, but also for cultural exchange.
This means that successful programs seamlessly integrate both experiences. On the job, team members should be giving interns opportunities to take on new responsibilities and learn the ins and outs of various departments. Off the job, when appropriate, team members should include interns in cultural outings.
Is there an upcoming benefit at a local museum? Your intern should get an invite. Same goes for company tickets to a baseball game or any other culturally-enriching experience.
Focusing on cultural exchange makes for a successful program and a happy intern. When you send your intern away content with the program, you leave the door open for future-hire potential, and increase your chances of finding more talented international recruits through word-of-mouth.
Launching a successful internship program can kickstart everything from global company name recognition to improved day-to-day processes.
For more information about how to start an internship program, you can contact us.
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