Did you know that according to StatsSA the unemployment rate in South Africa is 32.9% and graduate unemployment makes up 30% of the total unemployment rate? Looking at these statistics it’s clear that internship programs are crucial in South Africa.

An internship program can be a valuable way for businesses to attract and develop top talent. Not only do internship programs provide organisations with an opportunity to identify and cultivate future leaders, but they also offer interns a chance to gain hands-on experience in a real-world work environment. In this article, we’ll explore how to build winning internship programs that attract top talent and deliver real value.

What is an Internship program?

An internship program is a structured experience designed to provide a valuable learning experience that provides students or recent graduates with practical work that is directly related to a particular industry or field. Internship programs offer interns an insight into the industry and provide them with a chance to gain practical experiences and a competitive edge in their future job search.

How to Build Winning Internship Programs?

A successful internship program is one that provides interns with real-world experience that is both challenging and meaningful. So here are 11 ways to build winning internship programs.

Establish an Internship Program Coordinator.

A winning internship program depends largely on the person overseeing the interns. This individual serves as the main point of contact for the interns, providing guidance, feedback, and support throughout their time in the program.

A dedicated internship coordinator is crucial to building a program that pushes candidates to their fullest potential. This involves coordinating with managers and supervisors to design training programs that provide valuable skills and knowledge to interns.

Build Winning Internship Programs: Establish a coordinator.

Structuring your internship program is Key

The success of your internship program depends largely on its structure. It is crucial to consider the needs and goals of both the organisation and the interns to create a well-designed program. An effective program will not only provide interns with valuable skills and knowledge but also contribute to the success of the organisation.

To begin building a successful internship program, it is important to first consider the intended purpose of the program. Do you aim to fill skill gaps within your organisation, develop and nurture talent from within, or is it part of your corporate social investment (CSI) initiative? Clarifying the purpose of your internship program will help you create a program that aligns with your organisation’s goals and objectives and attract the type of talent that values your strategy. 

Once you have identified the goals of your program, you can begin designing an internship experience that offers tangible benefits to both the organisation and the interns. Always keep in mind that the internship experience should provide mutual benefits to both parties. This approach will help ensure that interns leave the program with increased skills, knowledge, and experience, while the organisation gains fresh perspectives, insights, and valuable contributions.

Highlight what the Eventual Role will look like.

Transparency is the key to attracting the best candidates for an internship program. It is essential to communicate the role and responsibilities of the position the company trying to fill, the starting salary and the potential for growth in the company. The ultimate goal is to have interns understand the career opportunities that await them to generate enthusiasm for working at your organisation.

By providing this information upfront, potential interns can have a clear understanding of the position to work towards which can be a strong motivator. 

This is also a crucial step for attracting the right talent for the internship program. There is no real benefit for the company if they invest an ample amount of time, money and effort into an internship program that has the wrong talent. So by providing a clear indication of the eventual role the interns can determine whether it aligns with their career goals.

Make the Internship Program Selective.

Offering an internship program can help organisations attract promising talent. However, it also comes with its own set of challenges, one of which is selecting the right candidates for the program.

The process of screening through all the applications and conducting interviews can be time-consuming and labour-intensive, especially when you receive a large number of applicants.

To help simplify and streamline the process Warmly’s one-way video interview software enables potential candidates to record themselves answering predetermined questions. You can easily screen through all the applicants at your convenience and select the most suitable ones for the internship program

Wamly’s software saves a significant amount of time and effort and also helps identify the best talent faster.

Demo Wamly's one way interview software

Give Interns Real and Meaningful Work.

The statement “Never ask an intern to get coffee” is a powerful reminder that interns should be treated like professionals if you want them to provide professional work. Interns are a great way to get fresh perspectives or build a strong talent pipeline, however by assigning them menial tasks such as fetching coffee or making copies fail to take advantage of their potential.

If you want Interns to deliver their best work, they must be treated with the same respect as full-time employees. Asking interns to do tasks that don’t align with their job description will damage their confidence. Instead, companies should be giving interns tasks and projects that contribute to the success of the organisation so that they can apply their skills and knowledge in a practical setting.

By offering interns challenging work, companies can better assess their capabilities and determine whether they can meet the company’s long-term needs. Interns who are given the opportunity to work on meaningful projects are more likely to develop a sense of commitment to the company. This can result in an increase in the number of interns that get hired, providing the company with a successful internship program and a steady stream of highly skilled and motivated talent.

Invest in Training Interns.

One way to maximise the potential of interns is to provide them with training and development opportunities. This can help them to build new skills, gain exposure to different aspects of the business and prepare for their future careers.

Training sessions can be led by experienced professionals who can provide valuable insights and guidance. Another great training session is by giving interns the opportunity to work on specific projects and tasks with current employees who can teach them new skills.

Regardless of the form that training and development take, the benefits to the interns are clear:

  • Interns develop new skills that are directly applicable to their future careers. This can be technical skills or soft skills.
  • Interns can gain exposure to different aspects of the business, which can help them understand how different departments and functions work together. This can be especially valuable for interns who are unsure about their future career paths since they can explore different options and gain a better understanding of what they want to do.

Training and developing interns can benefit the company itself. By investing in the development of interns, companies can create a pipeline of talented and skilled employees who are well-prepared to take on future roles ensuring that the company has a strong and capable workforce in the years to come. Making it a win-win situation for both the company and the interns

Build Winning Internship Programs: Invest in Training sessions

Creating fellowships between interns.

Encouraging collaboration and teamwork among interns is crucial for fostering a positive work environment and building strong relationships within the program. When interns collaborate, they can benefit from each other’s experiences, perspectives, and ideas.

Creating fellowships between the interns promotes a sense of community and belonging within the program. Moreover, fellowship among interns can lead to increased job satisfaction and retention, as interns feel more connected to the program and invested in its success.

Collaboration also develops essential skills that are highly valued in the workplace such as communication, leadership, problem-solving, and adaptability, which can enhance the overall quality of the internship program.

Establish Goals from the Start and Compensate Interns.

Having clear and attainable goals at the beginning of the program can help guide both the intern’s and the organisation’s expectations for the experience. Clear goals set the tone for the intern’s work, and they can easily understand what is expected of them. These goals also help interns remain focused and motivated throughout the internship program. 

In addition to setting goals, it is crucial to compensate interns fairly for their work. When interns feel appreciated, they are motivated to work harder, and the company benefits from their efforts. This also shows that the company values their work and is committed to their success.

Show Interns How They Impact the Business.

To build a winning internship program it’s crucial to make internships meaningful so that students can see the impact of their contributions to the business. 

One way to achieve this is by organising an intern expo interns can showcase their projects to the company’s leaders. This gives them a unique opportunity to see how their projects have helped solve real business problems, which in turn helps them understand the value of their work. 

This creates a sense of purpose while motivating and encouraging them to take ownership of their projects. They are able to see the bigger picture of how their work fit’s into the company’s goals and objectives.

This experience can be a great learning opportunity for students as they receive feedback from senior leaders. This feedback helps them to improve their skills and learn from their mistakes. It also helps them to develop a sense of professionalism as they interact with senior members of the company.

Give Interns Access to Top Talent.

By allowing interns to meet with Top talent, the organisation can help them feel confident that they are learning something and gaining valuable mentorship opportunities. This not only benefits the interns but also provides an opportunity for the top talent within the company to assess the potential of the intern.

Creating opportunities for interns to work alongside top talent also provides a great way for the organisation to measure the intern’s potential for future employment. By observing the intern’s work ethic, skills and abilities firsthand, the organisation can make a more informed decision regarding the intern’s future with the company.

Direct access to top talent also provides interns with valuable networking opportunities. Through these interactions, the interns can build professional relationships and potentially even gain referrals or recommendations for future employment opportunities.

Give and ask for candid feedback.

It is crucial to provide constructive feedback to your interns before they leave your organisation at the end of their internship program. This feedback should be considered and comprehensive, similar to the feedback you would provide to any other employee. This feedback could be the most significant thing an intern takes away from the internship program.

Moreover, it is an opportunity for coordinators to gain valuable insight from the interns’ perspective. The internship program coordinator should take advantage of this opportunity by asking interns about their most valuable experiences during the internship program and areas that may require adjustment, overhaul, or even elimination.

By providing feedback and seeking insights from your interns, you can ensure that the internship program is continuously refined and improved. This feedback is vital to maintaining a positive employer brand, which can help to attract and retain top talent.

Build Winning Internship Programs: Give feedback to interns

Give out an Internship Certificate

An internship certificate is an official document that confirms that the intern has successfully completed their designated internship with your organisation. This certificate highlights the department the intern worked in and verifies that they are qualified to seek higher-level positions in the industry. 

To ensure its authenticity, an internship certificate includes significant details such as the organisation’s letterhead, complete address, contact number, name of the manager, and their signature. 

As this certificate plays a significant role in an intern’s future endeavours, it holds great importance. To inspire you, here is an excellent example of an internship certificate:

Give out an Internship Certificate

Stay in touch after the Internship Program.

When the internship is over, it is important to maintain a connection with the intern. These individuals may move on to exciting opportunities in the future and by staying in touch, you open doors for potential collaborations or networking opportunities in the future. 

Maintaining relationships with former interns can also be beneficial if companies are looking to offer a full-time role to some in the future. You may identify hidden talent that could be a valuable asset to your team in the future.

Internship programs are a great way to get SETA funding.

Did you know that in South Africa, SETA (Sector Education and Training Authority) funding is given to organisations that support skills development and training?  One way to access SETA funding is through internship programs.

Internship programs provide an opportunity for students or recent graduates to gain practical work experience in their chosen field while working for an organisation. The organisation provides training and mentorship to the intern, which helps them develop their skills and gain valuable experience.

SETA funding can be used to cover the costs associated with running an internship program, including salaries for the interns, training materials, and other related expenses. To access SETA funding for an internship program, your organisation must first register with the relevant SETA in your industry.

Once registered, you can apply for funding by submitting a proposal for your internship program, outlining the objectives of the program, the skills that will be developed, and the expected outcomes. The SETA will then review the proposal and determine whether to approve the funding request.

Overall, internship programs are an excellent way to access SETA funding in South Africa, as they provide a valuable opportunity for skills development and training while also supporting the growth and development of businesses.

Creating effective internship programs is a highly successful method for attracting skilled individuals who can aid in the expansion of your business. Follow these guidelines to build your winning internship program.