Internships are high-impact practices that align a student’s academic work in a meaningful, productive way that can also meet your organization’s goals and energize your organization with fresh ideas. An internship formally integrates the student's academic study with practical experience in a cooperating organization.
According to the National Association of College and Employers and The Fair Labor Standards Act, to be considered a high-impact practice, internships must:
- Be an extension of the classroom- a learning experience that applies the knowledge gained in the classroom. The internship should not replace a regular employee.
- Have a defined beginning and end date, typically aligned with the academic calendar.
- Have clearly defined learning objectives/goals related to the professional goals of the student’s coursework.
- Be supervised by a professional, preferably with expertise and background in the field or function the intern is serving in.
- Offer routine feedback from the supervisor and a formal evaluation at the mid-point and end of the internship.
- Provide resources, equipment, and facilities that support learning objectives/goals. Student interns should not incur any costs by participating in the internship.
An internship’s primary focus is on the student intern’s professional development, learning objectives, and mentoring relationship between the intern and their site supervisor(s). Internships include four key components:
- Deliberate learning: this includes goal setting, honing professional skills, and developing career specific competencies.
- Reflection: interns reflect on their experiences and relate their experiences to coursework
- Professional development: interns are trained on and develop essential skills, such as communication, taking initiative, problem solving, and teamwork.
- One-on-one mentoring: interns receive ongoing supervision, guidance, and feedback.
How does this differ from an employee?
An intern is not expected to have mastered specific professional or technical skills needed to complete the work independently when they begin the internship. Internships are meant to provide students an opportunity to learn, practice, and hone professional skills under the supervision of an experienced professional. For example, if you are interested in launching a social media campaign, an intern should not be expected to create, implement, and manage the campaign on their own. An intern can assist in the process by completing research, creating graphics and content, collecting data, and assisting with completing reports. A staff member with experience or expertise in communications should supervise and mentor the intern. Interns should not replace the work an employee would do at your organization.
How does this differ from a volunteer?
Volunteers are there for the benefit of the organization and typically do not benefit from deliberate learning, reflection, skill development, or mentoring. An intern is also expected to create learning goals and outcomes, engage in a mentoring relationship, keep a consistent work schedule, and are given professional assignments and tasks.
To gauge whether your nonprofit organization or City Department is “ready” for an intern, there are several things to consider.
- Do you have the time and human resources to support an intern? You will need a dedicated staff person, or people, that oversees the orientation, onboarding, training, and supervision of the student intern. Ongoing training and supervision can be completed by multiple staff members depending on the intern’s role and assignments, but there should be a dedicated person that oversees the entire internship experience.
- Do you have the physical and/or technological resources to support an intern? Things such as a dedicated workspace, internet access, parking, etc. should be provided to the student intern at no cost. If the intern is working remotely, make sure the student has access to the files and software they need to complete their work.
- Are there quality work assignments and projects for the student intern to complete? This might include: assisting, creating, or overseeing specific projects or programs; participating in staff meetings; shadowing and networking with upper-level leadership.
- Will interns be able to apply the knowledge they have learned in the classroom to the workplace?
- Are work assignments attainable yet challenging for interns, allowing for the development/enhancement of tangible skills?
- Is there a dedicated person to train, supervise, and mentor interns? Responsibilities may include: creating an orientation for interns, holding weekly check-in meetings with interns, answering questions, supporting interns in meeting their learning objectives, providing interns with career development opportunities in and out of the organization, and evaluating and providing feedback on the intern’s performance.
- Does the intern’s supervisor have some level of expertise in the areas in which the intern will be working? An intern should not replace the work of an employee and should not be expected to have mastered specific professional or technical skills needed to complete the work independently when they begin the internship.
All interested nonprofits, City Departments, and small businesses are required to complete an online application each recruitment cycle, even if you have participated in previous semesters. In the application, organizations will be asked to upload a position description that details possible internship assignments, opportunities, and required skills/experiences. We will work with you to develop your position description.
Areas where you might consider placing an intern in your organization include, but are not limited to:
- Community Engagement & Program Delivery
- Volunteer Coordination & Event Planning
- Communications & Social Media
- Data Analysis & Management
- Fundraising & Development
After completing the application, the LBCIP Team will review position descriptions and identify organizations that might be a good matches for our students. Organizations will be notified if they have been selected to participate in the interview process. Once you are notified, you will receive the students’ names and contact information. Contact the students to schedule individual interviews within the interview timeframe. This is also an opportunity for the students to get to know your organization and identify if your organization is a good fit with their personal and professional goals.
The interview process is a professional development experience for students that gives them the opportunity to practice self-presentation, responding to questions, and professionalism. It also allows us to make the best possible matches between students and organizations as both students AND organizations will be providing feedback to the LBCIP team about their interviews and preferences.
Please note not all nonprofit organizations, City Departments, and small businesses that interview students will be selected to host a student intern in a given semester. While we know that this will be disappointing for organizations not selected to participate, our goal is to make the best possible matches that benefit both organizations and students, and sometimes we cannot identify good matches that have the potential to benefit both parties. If there is a semester in which we cannot make a good match for your organization, we will let you know promptly and also encourage you to participate in a future semester.