Who wouldn’t want to spend all summer by the pool or lake? But while lifeguarding and camp counselling are still popular ways to fill the mid-year months and earn some cash, more young people are seeking out temporary placements with businesses instead.

For employers, internships are a low risk method to recruit and develop the next generation of talent. There’s rarely a shortage of willing young people, since internships can launch careers and provide valuable work experience. But despite the benefits, many small companies don’t offer summer placements.

One reason: Bad press. Some companies and industries have landed in hot water for failing to pay their temps. For example, Lionsgate, a U.S. entertainment company, faces a significant lawsuit over unpaid work performed by its interns in 2014. And in August 2014, Bell Canada cancelled its unpaid internship program following a federal labour dispute.

Read: Desjardins, KPMG and Rogers among top employers for young people

The Ontario Ministry of Labour – and other provincial standards – makes clear that simply giving someone the title of “intern” does not exempt you from having to pay them the minimum wage. Workers will be considered to be employees unless they meet certain conditions: training that benefits the intern; little, if any benefit to the employer; and no promise of a job at the end of the placement, among others. But most interns want to be doing meaningful work, and many companies use placements to scout talent – motivations that could run afoul of the restrictions. The simplest way to avoid legal hot water: Pay interns and treat them with the respect any other employee would expect.

Companies may feel that the temporary help interns provide isn’t worth the potential legal and public relations complications of a misstep. But the benefits extend beyond some short-term relief. “At Talent Egg, our interns help us to stay informed and in touch with the current needs of students and recent graduates which is essential to our success,” explains acting chief executive officer and chief operations officer Anne MacPhee. At many companies, internships are a way to “test drive” staff before committing to a long-term employment arrangement.

Here’s how small business should recruit and manage an intern for a summer placement or longer assignments.

1. Plan the duration and project

Traditional summer internship placements last four months, but that is only one approach. “The average duration of our placements is seven months, though we do see placements up to a year,” notes MacPhee.

It is also important to know what the types of jobs that interns typically fill. “We have placed new graduates, new Canadians and those from the Canadian Armed Forces into a variety of roles,” explains MacPhee. “I have seen interns placed into marketing, finance, human resources and other fields. Many large employers – all three levels of governments, the large banks and large telecommunication firms – have long established internship programs to bring in new talent.”

Read: Proposed measures to protect interns fall short: NDP

Knowing the planned duration of the internship is important because it will dictate what kinds of assignments to provide. It is better to assign smaller tasks or projects that an intern can see through from start to finish.

2. Design a meaningful job description

“Interns want a meaningful placement, the opportunity to build their resume and contribute to the company,” explains Sharon Irwin-Foulon, executive director of career management and corporate recruiting at the Ivey Business School at Western University in London, Ont. “Good assignments for interns take different forms. For example, working on a research project relating to a new product is one possibility. Assisting in putting on an event for customers is another option.”

Some interns, especially those in computer science and engineering, have multiple options, so you need to emphasize the opportunities that a small company can offer. Smaller firms tend to have greater flexibility. Also emphasize the opportunity to work in several functions, such as working with customers or improving products.

3. Partner with institutions

There are several organizations that can assist companies in recruiting skilled interns. “Over the past few years, we have recruited interns from the University of Waterloo, University of Toronto and through Career Edge,” says Elkin Fung, vice president of platform engineering at Timeplay, an entertainment technology company based in Toronto.

Read: Ontario makes changes to workplace laws

University career centres are an excellent resource to help employers locate interns. “A half hour call with us is a great way to start the recruitment process. We can often recommend students that meet the employer’s needs,” notes Ivey’s Irwin-Foulon.

4. Start early

Plan to recruit early to ensure your company has access to the best talent. “When we recruit summer interns from engineering and computer science programs for a May start date, I find it is important to start the recruitment process in September of the previous year,” explains Fung.

“In my experience at the Ivey Business School, summer recruiting tends to start at February. That said, we have conversations with employers and placements take place year round,” adds Irwin-Foulon.

5. Provide feedback

“To help interns adjust and succeed, I suggest that mangers meet with the intern one-on-one after the first week and afterwards,” recommends McPhee. “During this meeting, provide observations and feedback on the intern’s performance and provide an opportunity to answer their questions.

In addition to management feedback, you should encourage other employees to provide mentoring and coaching to help the intern thrive.

This article was originally published on Benefits Canada‘s sister site, ProfitGuide.com

Copyright © 2020 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on benefitscanada.com

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