Internships are an opportunity for students to get their foot in the door, gain some hands-on experience, hone valuable skills, build connections, and explore potential career paths.
But what returns can employers expect from creating or expanding an internship program?
According to data from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), employers point to internships as the recruiting strategy with the highest ROI.
Here are six benefits that prove internships are a strategic initiative and competitive advantage for you:
- Internships improve your hiring efficiency
- Internships engage talent early in their college-to-career journey
- Internships build your early talent pipeline
- Internships generate brand awareness and affinity
- Internships support your DEI efforts
- Internships upskill your pipeline
When internship programs are done well, they can be a huge differentiator in an employer’s ability to engage, recruit, and retain early talent. Read on for six reasons why it’s important to set up or build out your internship program.
1. Internships improve your hiring efficiency
An internship program translates to a stronger pipeline, and a stronger pipeline translates to better candidate conversion and shorter time to hire—both of which are important when hiring teams are feeling the pressure of doing more with less.
Provided your internship is a positive experience, your interns are likely to want to become full-time hires. According to NACE, 57.6% of interns convert to full-time employees, which saves the hiring team time, effort, and energy they’d have to invest in hiring from scratch.
2. Internships engage talent early in their college-to-career journey
When it comes to engaging early talent, you want to get there…well, early. To forge a deeper relationship, more brand affinity, and a sense of loyalty, start interacting with students long before they start thinking about the actual job search—ideally during their second and third years of college. This is the ideal time for an internship.
Why? Students have settled into the major transition of college life, have started to build skills and knowledge through their coursework and extracurriculars, and have more curiosity about what career opportunities are out there.
Your internship program gives them a chance to experience your organization and fosters a sense of familiarity and commitment early on—so your company will be top of mind as they approach graduation.
Did you know Bill Gates, Mary Barra, Conan O’Brien, Spike Lee, and Oprah all started their careers as interns?
3. Internships build your early talent pipeline
When you have entry-level roles available, an internship program means you don’t have to start from scratch—you already have a thriving pipeline of qualified and engaged candidates that are eager to make a difference.
Since many organizations want to attract students and early career professionals, an internship program is a future-thinking way to build a solid pipeline of talent that you can tap into when you have full-time vacancies.
For example, 90% of PwC's interns end up receiving full-time offers, positioning the company’s internships as stepping stones to rewarding careers.
4. Internships generate brand awareness and affinity
Your employer brand is how you demonstrate and reinforce your organizational values. And your internship program is more than a recruitment initiative—it’s a powerful brand boosting opportunity too.
Of course, a challenging, rewarding, and meaningful internship fosters brand affinity directly with your interns, who will hopefully want to return to your company for full-time opportunities.
Brushing up your brand? Ask interns for their input.
When you update your Handshake Company Profile or recruitment resources, leverage your interns. It’s a learning opportunity for them, as well as a chance for you to ensure your branding is relevant and engaging to early career talent.Learn how to update your Handshake Company Profile
5. Internships support your DEI efforts
You can’t have diverse leaders without starting with opportunities at the internship or entry level. And internships need to be paid. According to a NACE report, white male students are disproportionately represented among paid interns: 76.4% of men who took part in internships received compensation, compared to only 51.5% of women. NACE data also shows that Black and Hispanic students are significantly less likely to be paid for internships.
When research shows a correlation between race and lower socioeconomic status, underrepresented groups often can’t afford to take on unpaid internships. Offering paid internships gives students a chance to capitalize on a valuable career opportunity, while still getting the resources they need to support themselves.
Handshake chief education officer, Christine Cruzvergara, digs into the topic of internships and the benefits of offering paid internships in Forbes.
6. Internships upskill your pipeline
Internships give students both skills and experience. But that doesn’t mean your interns are the only ones benefiting. Your organization is, too, because you’re not just building a pipeline—you’re building a pipeline of candidates that already have the knowledge and competencies that meet the demands of your organization.
Charles Schwab's internship program—with 480 interns across 14 business lines—provides early talent with skills, experience, and exposure. Historically, Schwab has offered 70-75% of the class full-time roles, and 70-75% accept—which is well above the program’s goals.
A top-notch internship program can lead students into a full-time position with your organization.
Charles Schwab's internship program exceeds goals
Schwab's intern and early talent programs offer skills, experience, and exposure that students need. In return, those students bring thought diversity and become a pipeline of full-time hires that share Schwab’s values.Learn more
From cost to opportunity: building the business case for internships
Internships have long been positioned as a competitive edge for students looking to get an early start and a leg up in their careers. But internships aren’t just a win for early talent—they’re a powerful advantage for employers, too.
With a high-quality internship program, you can engage talent early, boost your employer brand, support your DEI efforts, build a skilled and knowledgeable pipeline, and streamline your hiring strategies.
For employers that need to compete for early talent, it’s time to stop asking if you can afford to launch an internship program and ask a more pertinent question: can you afford not to?
When 75% of students in the US have access to Handshake through their campus career services, Handshake is the most effective and efficient way to reach targeted groups and fill your internships and other entry-level or early career positions. Ready to build your internship program and get in front of early talent? Talk to Handshake.