What Employers Need to Know About Summer Intern Programs

It’s summer intern hiring season. The best intern programs provide real-world work experience to the intern, while benefiting the employer. However, before hiring begins, make sure your organization is compliant with the U.S. Department of Labor’s new guidelines. Specifically, the DOL is most concerned with the purpose of the internship and who ultimately benefits.

Benefits for Interns

Interns can be either students or employee trainees who receive three primary benefits:

  • Academic credits
  • Work experience
  • On-the-job training

The most important thing a summer internship provides to the intern is real-world work experience. Sometimes this is the deciding factor when employers decide which candidate to hire. Why? Because learning about business in an academic environment is not the same as experiencing the day-to-day challenges of the workplace.

Benefits for Employers

Interns should not be thought of as cheap and/or free labor, doing the “grunt work” full-time employees don’t want to do. When done correctly, internships can provide the following benefits for the employer:

  • Opportunity to give back to the community – establishes positive connections with local academic institutions while giving back to the local workforce
  • Delivers management/training skills – provides mentoring of young talent while providing insight into real-world business practices
  • Enhances perspective – allows the organization to test/learn news ways to communicate with a younger, more technologically oriented worker
  • Increases productivity – provides additional help to organize and/or complete research for time consuming projects
  • Identifies future talent – enables the organization to determine first-hand how a potential employee might fit into the culture and complete necessary tasks required by a job

The potential benefits to the employer are great, but a successful summer intern program must ensure the experience is the most beneficial for the intern.  Otherwise, organizations will damage relationships with local communities, academic institutions and overall public opinion.

When determining whether the internship is paid, employers must consider the DOL’s primary beneficiary test.

Primary Beneficiary Test

Recently, the DOL has made some changes to ensure all is fair regarding internships under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). When determining if an intern is entitled to payment, the DOL has established the primary beneficiary test. The test is a list of 7 questions to help determine who benefits the most in the intern/employer relationship. If it’s the employer, the intern is considered an employee and is entitled to payment under FLSA. Employers must then provide paid internships to be compliant with the FLSA.

The key to remember is to give the intern meaningful work, not the mindless errands of a glorified errand boy/girl. The best kind of internship enables an intern to become immersed into the dynamics of internal work teams, interactions with customers and/or vendors and gain problem-solving skills. If these benefits are provided to the intern, employers can benefit too by gaining insight into a potential candidate-for-hire’s skill set while enhancing mentoring and communication skills. When done correctly, internships are a win-win for both parties.

SACS Consulting Knows HR

Make sure your organization is mitigating risk with sound HR policies and procedures to improve workplace culture, help prevent disagreements and make certain everyone is treated equally. Contact SACS Consulting & Investigative Services to find out how we can help put you back in control of Human Resources!