How To Keep Internships Legit

Disclaimer: every effort is made here at Pedestrian JOBS to ensure that only legit internships are advertised in our site. It’s important to us that an internship benefits the intern first and foremost, and that the criteria outlined below are fulfilled as much as possible. 

So you think you want an intern? Nice one. Let’s set the story straight though – to quote ourselves, ‘An internship is: a well-structured, carefully supervised training program (or part of an authorised educational training course) – where employees are taking up their valuable Facebook time to help provide instruction and impart their knowledge upon the intern.’ Sharing your wisdom and workplace with a fresh, eager young mind is indeed a beautiful thing. According to the Fair Work Ombudsmen, it’s all g to have an unpaid intern, as long as that intern is not in an ’employment relationship’, which basically means they’re not doing productive work that would otherwise be done by a paid employee. Let’s take a closer look at what that looks like, and what you need to look out for when setting it all in motion. 

To get to the nitty gritty, the general rule is the more productive work you’re getting someone to do, the more likely it is that they’re in an employment relationship, which means they are entitled to a minimum wage, the National Employment Standards and the terms of any applicable award or registered agreement. An easy way to check is to ask yourself, would your intern be doing work that has to be done for the business, and that would normally be done by an employee? Make sure this is not the case, and you’ll be laughing. 
Lolz all around, amirite? 
Your intern is not there to do the work, they’re there to learn about it, ya follow? What skills can they acquire from spending time in your business? What training can you and your team provide them with? Is there some research or another non-essential project they could assist with? Best case scenario, your internship program can even be accredited for any relevant study requirements/subjects at a tertiary institution, so be open to working with universities and TAFEs to meet any requisites. As well, a letter of reference is an absolute must-do. It’s a key record of the experience your intern is so eager to get under their belt, and will probs be required for their study anyway. Stationery at the ready.  

Be honest and upfront about the aims of the internship and any expectations you or your intern may have from the get-go. Also be clear about the length of the program and the time that would ideally be committed. Remember, the longer you want your intern to stick around, the more likely it is you need to consider some form of employment. Also, don’t be tacky – cover any expenses your intern may incur throughout their time with you, shout them a lunch as often as poss, and provide any equipment they’ll need if you can. 
Avoid at all costs. 
What does this even mean, really? Another lame-o move to avoid is dangling the ol’ ‘may lead to a full time position’ carrot. If you do have the potential to take on a full-timer, by all means, go right ahead. But please, use sparingly and with care – this is a conversation that needs to take place on day one, and at regular intervals if you are keen to potentially take your intern on board long-term. 

The person benefitting the most from the internship should always be the intern. If it’s not, and you’re reaping all the goods from the relationship, then it’s likely your intern should be an employee, and you’ll need to reconsider the whole shebang. In this case, may we recommend posting an ad on Pedestrian JOBS? Casual, contract, whatever you need, if you’re after someone to do productive work for your business and be responsible, you’re gonna have to pay them. 
All in all, taking on an intern and setting up an internship program is a stellar way to give back to your industry/community, and share skills, industry knowledge and contacts. If you do it right, it’s a gr8 thing.

When in doubt, the Fair Work Ombudsmen is always your first stop – check ’em out here and allay your fears. 

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Photo: The Internship