As the year begins many small business owners are considering hiring interns to supplement their workforce.  Before you bring on a student, be sure you understand the rules about unpaid internships.

  • The internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment; –
  • The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern;
  • The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff;
  • The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded;
  • The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship; and  the employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.
At Roundpeg, we offer unpaid internships and work very hard to insure we comply with the rules and create a valuable experience for the student, for example:
  • Our interns learn a variety of software programs which are not taught in school. Members of my staff carve out time weekly to demonstrate, train, etc.
  • Assignments are designed to be “portfolio building” experiences, where the students are encouraged to keep samples of final output, and customer testimonials regarding the projects.
  • While the writers and design students we bring on are given the ability to try various approaches, all work is reviewed and critiqued before it is sent to a client.  Often, an intern and a staff member work  on the same project so the student can see how a professional approaches the project.  They can then compare their work and get client feedback.
  • We often take on pro bono projects because we have interns in-house.  Organizations like the Indiana School for the Blind, Hamilton County Entrepreneurship Advancement Center and Startup Weekend have all benefited from contributions made by our interns.
  • Sometimes it would be faster to just do the work ourselves, but there is value in getting a fresh perspective from our interns.
  • While we do often hire interns there is no promise of employment.We are very clear about that up front, however, we do appreciate the interns, often paying for lunch, and occasionally we have given interns a bonus, just as we do our employees.

Interns can add a lot to your organization, just be sure you create a meaningful experience for them as well.