How can internships address your talent shortage?

Last Updated on November 18, 2021 / Recruitment

HR Question:

We’re having a hard time meeting our business goals as we’re understaffed and finding it difficult to fill our open positions. The idea of using interns came up in a brainstorming session. Should my company consider creating an internship program to address our talent shortage?

HR Answer:

You are not alone as many companies are currently struggling to find the talent that they need. It is smart to be thinking about various ways to address your talent gaps, and internships can be a great way to help lighten your current workloads while providing helpful work experience to college students. They also give you the chance to groom potential future employees.

How a lack of internships has impacted college students, aka your future employees

In 2020, the number of internships that were completely removed or scaled back was significant. It’s understandable that internships, which by design are temporary and transitional in nature, were affected by the pandemic. However, it’s important to recognize the impact of the reduction of available internships on college students, aka your future employees.

First, college students depend on internships to solidify their field of choice and receive relevant work experience.  With fewer internships, many students are graduating unsure and unprepared.  According to Forbes, “About three out of four students said losing their internship has caused significant disruption to their future.”

Secondly, 2020 and 2021 college graduates who couldn’t complete internships are finding it difficult to secure full-time positions in their fields. Their resumes are lacking the robust one or two internships experiences that employers, like you, are typically looking for.

When companies are recruiting to fill full-time positions, they often look for candidates who can bring some relevant experience. Previous experience, particularly through internships and co-ops for new college grads, can provide relevant work experience to help them hit the ground running in a full-time post-graduation role. It’s difficult to get experience if internships are not offered. Hence, the argument for the value of internships for both the students and employers.


How internships can address labor shortages, fill your talent pipeline, and create brand awareness

As you’ve likely experienced, the hiring landscape is challenging for many positions. With labor shortages created by fewer available workers than open jobs (.7 person for every open job according to BLS), coupled with the Great Resignation, employers are struggling to fill many of their open positions. As the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) reported, internships have “proved advantageous for companies that need some extra help but can’t afford to take on new staff or hire a temp.” We encourage you to look at how you can leverage internships to get meaningful work done that helps you to meet your business goals.

In addition to addressing immediate needs, training college students for your future employment is a forward-thinking recruiting strategy.  Hiring an intern is one of the best ways to “try before buying” your next employee. It also gives interns an insider’s perspective on what it’s like to work in your organization which can lead to increased new hire retention rates as they have a realistic view of what it’s like to work at your company.

Offering a meaningful internship program also shines a positive light and message to the community.  It helps to increase brand awareness among upcoming college grads, which is particularly important for small to mid-sized companies who may not be household names, yet excellent places to work.


How to create an internship program

If you don’t already have an internship program in place or a former one that you can dust off, it can feel overwhelming to get started. There are many resources available to help create or revise an internship program such as these employer internship resources. You may also want to review the 15 best practices for internship programs according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). In general, it is important to provide a meaningful experience where the intern is introduced and welcomed into your company culture,  gains valuable work experience, and helps your organization to meet your goals.

One of the benefits of having experienced a year or more of learning online, today’s college students are highly adept at working remotely. Typical summer internships can now be offered year-round, remote, or hybrid.  As Forbes points out, “A virtual internship today might be pretty good preparation for the remote work of tomorrow.”  In addition, students can continue remote learning and have an internship concurrently, if needed. It can be a win-win for the student and your company.

Offering paid internships will not only make the positions easier to fill, but depending on the school(s) they attend and/or local, state, or federal laws, you may be required to provide compensation. Be sure to understand the law(s) around paid versus unpaid internships in determining compensation.

Bottom line, now is a great time to consider offering an internship program.  There are many benefits for college students and for you, their future employer.

Special thanks to Cindy Eldred, Talent Acquisition Consultant, for contributing to this HR Question of the Week.

Are you wondering whether an internship program could help to meet your talent needs? Would you like to start an internship program but just don’t have the time to do it? Our talent acquisition experts are happy to help! Contact us today.