By Andrew Maguire
These days, an internship program is commonplace within any organization. Whether your company is just starting out or you’ve been around for a while, interns can help take your company to the next level.
So then why are so many organizations missing a very crucial factor which could take their internship programs from subpar to stellar?
You may not have considered it, but implementing and maintaining diversity initiatives is key to a successful internship program. Without them, you’re not only losing out on great candidates, you’re hindering growth within your organization. That’s right. If you’re not hiring a wide range of interns, you’re essentially limiting the way you develop, both in terms of work environment and in terms of overall performance. Plus, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, the intern you hire today, has a nearly 60 percent chance of becoming one of your employees tomorrow. Don’t you want to be prepared?
If diverse interns are the key to a better internship program, and therefore a better organization in the long run, how can you nab these key players? Check out the following suggestions.
1. Start early.
If you want to recruit a diverse flock of interns, you need to start the process early. You can easily engage with high school or college students by partnering with their institutions. You can even create programs relevant to your industry. Mentoring students at a young age puts them on the track to success.
Two companies doing this well are Google and Microsoft, both of which have diversity-focused mentorship programs. Google RISE Awards, which promotes and supports STEM and computer science education initiatives, grants awards to organizations working with schools that provide enrichment programs to nurture the future of their industry. Microsoft’s DigiGirlz High Tech Camp offers girls 13 and up a hands-on experience with technology, inspiring them to consider a STEM career. These two programs show that by starting early, you can amp up the diversity factor and be first in line for the best students.
2. Go abroad.
If you’re seeking interns who have grown up with varying outlooks or education levels, get out the map; it’s time to go abroad. International internship candidates can give you the diversity you’re looking for simply because they have grown up in a different culture with different norms, values, and outlooks. Plus, if you get assistance from an outside search agency, you can ease an otherwise tedious process.
3. Sponsor diversity career fairs.
If you want to create a more diverse internship program, why not go to the source? Sponsoring diversity career fairs allows you to meet a variety of candidates face-to-face and talk to them directly about their backgrounds. In addition, it gives you the chance to hire diverse interns ahead of your competition. These career fairs can also be in-person or virtual; the latter will give remote internship candidates a chance to learn more about your organization.
4. Offer specialized scholarships.
If you want to invest in students and young professionals from the get-go, diversity-focused scholarships are a great way to do it. Case in point: After ecommerce website Etsy tried repeatedly to hire more female engineers, they decided to offer grants and public engineering courses to women. Guess what? It worked. By the end of the year, the site was able to grow its number of female engineers by 500 percent, showing that a little investment goes a long way.
5. Provide competitive compensation.
Research indicates that more students are leaving college with student loan debt, the highest percentage of students being African American and Latino. Therefore, an unpaid internship may not be an option for these two groups. However, if you provide competitive compensation, you are not only helping these young professionals get out of debt, you’re opening up your internship program to more diverse students. If you can’t provide at least federal minimum wage, think about other forms of compensation, such as stipends, skills training, or health benefits.
When you incorporate diversity into your internship program, you create the potential for better employees who are more than equipped to handle your needs. In the end, a diverse internship program may be the key your organization is looking for to create a well-rounded team from the bottom-up.
What do you think? How important is diversity in your internship program?