Why Graphics Businesses Should Consider Internship Programs

The pundits are calling it the “Great Resignation.” Some have referred to it as the “Great Re-Assessment.” Many workers are looking at their employment scenario and deciding they don’t like their job. There is also a global pandemic going on that is keeping people from going to work. Many baby boomers have decided on early retirement, lots of women are leaving the workforce because they need to take care of their kids if the schools close down because of COVID-19, some young people have decided they’ll take a year off to consider their options, and others have left long-term positions to test out the freelance market.

Let’s face it, there is a worker shortage.

Competition can be brutal

You’ve probably read about it in the newspaper and seen it on the news — the dreaded no-show candidate. They schedule an interview and never show up. Worse, they accept an offer and leave within a few weeks because they received a better offer from another company willing to pay more.

Have you had to raise salaries to keep good people?

With competition for talent so tight, even entry-level jobs are offering great starting pay. Some fast-food joints in major cities are offering up to $22 per hour! What is a small business owner to do? You need employees to keep your doors open.

Enter the interns

Salary, benefits, social security taxes, unemployment insurance, worker’s comp — it all adds up.

Instead of killing yourself to poach talent from the competition, consider offering an internship. Go to your local junior college, college, or university and contact the career services office to apply to the internship program. Many programs differ, but the basics are the same: you can offer an internship for the semester or the year to those seeking degrees or experience in a similar field or area of expertise as your business. For example, every business needs additional administrative help, so offer an internship to a student majoring in business administration.

The schools love it when a business offers internships because they act as a value-add to their educational offerings by providing their students with real-world experience. Students love them for several reasons, including a major one — it gets them out of the classroom. Students get a taste of the real world and obtain real-world experience that looks great on a resume. It gives them a jumpstart on their peers when they graduate.

There are benefits for your business as well: internships can save small business owners tens of thousands of dollars each year. It’s a win-win!

Make sure to follow the rules

According to the United States Department of Labor, there are seven standards that must be met to establish an unpaid internship.

  1. The employer and intern both clearly understand that there is no expectation of compensation. If compensation is implied or promised, the intern is then considered an employee.
  2. The internship — even though it includes the actual operation of the facilities of the employer — is similar to training that would be given in an educational environment.
  3. The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern and their formal education, tying in integrated coursework or receipt of academic credit.
  4. The intern does not displace regular employees but works under close supervision of existing staff.
  5. The internship accommodates the interns’ academic commitments and schedules.
  6. The internship is limited to the time period in which the intern is provided with beneficial learning.
  7. The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship at its conclusion.

Unpaid internships are not employment

Assuming the internship qualifies under the factors above, the Fair Labor Standards Act does not consider an employment relationship to actually exist.

Be very careful that you abide by these rules, and you will have a wonderful opportunity to do some good in the lives of young people getting ready for the workforce while also saving yourself the cost of hiring somebody and paying their salary, only to lose them to another company happy to pay them a little more because you took the time and energy to train them.

A path to employment

The best part about participating in an internship program is that the students learn about your company and all your processes. They are ready to go the day they finish school, and you won’t have to go through any of the regular onboarding challenges that cost time and resources with regular applicants.

The process helps you up your game

The best way to understand something is to try to explain it to someone else. Einstein famously said, “If you can’t explain something simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”

When you have to train a new intern on how you run your shop, you get better at understanding why you do things the way you do. When the interns ask questions seeking to understand, you also get a better idea of whether you are doing your jobs the best and most efficient way possible.

The “outside perspective” of somebody that has no idea how your business runs can be the best consulting work you’ll ever get, and you won’t have to pay expensive consultant billing rates! As you take on more interns, you will get better at explaining how your business runs. As you get better at explaining it, you’ll discover areas where you can improve. So many shop owners get distracted working in the business that they never get a chance to work on the business. The benefit of constantly reviewing your operations gives you invaluable opportunities to re-evaluate the areas that never get enough time when you are busy satisfying customers and getting orders out the door.

In the current business climate, you have so many things to worry about — inflation, supply chain crunches, masks, social distancing, and the constant evolution of the workplace. Do yourself a favor and look into local internship opportunities in your area. You’ll help someone start their professional journey and your bottom line will benefit in big ways.

Dana Curtis

Dana Curtis


Dana Curtis is the founder and CEO of Biztools, a strategic consulting firm that helps small businesses multiply revenue through improved customer experience and pivot to new markets.

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