Interns are no longer just a free source of people to do the coffee run for a business. As we know at Banjo, they are an imporant resource for many businesses and the foundation of an organisation’s talent pool.
Public relations firm the Red Agency Melbourne is just one business that has developed an intern program that is an important part of the entity’s overall human resources strategy.
Principal Grant Titmus explains the Red Agency has about 12 to 15 people that go through its internship program every year. Interns normally approach the agency and they are chosen based on their experience and via a face-to-face interview.
Advantages for both sides
“There are benefits for both parties. The majority of the interns are third year students so it gives them a great opportunity to understand more about the industry and what happens on a day-to-day basis. We try to keep the work as interesting as possible so they are exposed to many facets of the industry. For us, it also provides a resource to undertake some of the more basic tasks such as monitoring or reporting,” says Titmus.
“But they also come to events that we manage and some client meetings. In the past we have gone on to employ many of the bests interns. So the program gives us a chance to look at how they work and enables us to select the very best,” he adds.
More than just making coffee
The interns do a variety of tasks, depending on the clients and projects the business has at the time. Tasks include research, media database creation, helping at events and activations and media reporting.
Titmus says when they are hiring interns they look for people who can demonstrate attention to detail, attentiveness, a good attitude towards tasks and an eagerness to learn.
The business does not pay interns who are there for work experience, but those who stay past a certain time do receive payment. Many do go on to become full time employees, but it depends on what’s happening in the business and the industry. “One year we kept on five interns, two in Melbourne, two in Sydney and one in Brisbane,” he says.
Making the most of interns
Titmus’ advice when it comes to making the most of interns is to give them work that needs to be done, so they are able to learn something from it and also benefit the company.
If you’re looking for interns and want advice about the best way to build them into your HR strategy, contact Interns Australia.
Creative communication and digital agency Penso’s top tips for getting the most from an internship program:
- Clients, friends and local schools are a fantastic source of interns. Look for people you have a connection to and understand what they want to achieve.
- It’s essential to communicate with prospective interns’ parents, school or university to ensure there is a clear understanding of duty of care. If they are young make sure they know how to get to the workplace. If they are older make sure they know where to park or public transport options.
- Ensure there is an internal ‘owner’ of the intern who acts as their mentor or buddy. This person should be someone who guides and leads them and someone they can turn to if they have a concern. Usually, this person isn’t the person they will report to on a day-to-day basis.
- It’s worthwhile having a formal induction program for interns. This should cover what the company does, what the industry does, how the business operates and is structured and how it earns revenue.
- Job rotation is also essential. Give interns a work plan that covers multiple areas of the business, with an emphasis on theoretical and actual work. It’s important to give them an understanding that even if they are doing simple tasks, they have a context within the bigger business.
- Give their school, university and/or parents feedback a few days after the intern has started work at the business to ensure they are comfortable and to give them an opportunity to ask and have answered any questions they may have.
- At the end of the internship ask the intern to present back what they learnt during their time with the business. This should cover what surprised them, what they liked and didn’t like and how their perceptions or work have changed. Ask them to justify whether they would pursue a career in the industry.
- If possible pay them. This might be an amount to cover transport and food, or it could be a small wage to ensure they understand that hard work has its rewards.