Creating an Effective & Productive Internship Program
“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I may remember. Involve me and I learn.” -Benjamin Franklin
Bringing new talent onto your team can be a delicate balancing act. Providing a valuable experience for the interns and the company while not distracting existing team members from being productive is even more challenging.
Where are their knowledge gaps? How can you best welcome them and integrate them while not taxing your more senior members? How can you quickly get them familiar with your environment? At Treehouse we’ve had the opportunity to build effective internship programs with several of our client partners. Here’s a basic formula that you can easily apply to your company’s situation and needs.
“The expert in anything was once a beginner.” – Helen Hayes
As you bring in your interns, it’s important to understand their current skill level so you know where to focus their onboarding. As they are getting acclimated, we have found a heavy focus on leveraging a tool like Treehouse during their first two weeks works well. Plan on having them spend about 70% of their time in training during this period. Then, they can downshift to about 30% training time and focus on digging into your technical environment.
Ensuring that your interns understand your tech stack is the key to them providing value to your company. Using our Custom Tracks feature in Treehouse for Business, you can map out a learning path tailored to your team’s needs. Our Customer Success team will help you identify which courses will get you the outcome you seek. This is highly effective for onboarding interns and new hires, especially in the first couple of crucial weeks to establish a strong foundation.
To keep your interns on task, you can easily assign a deadline and monitor their progress. You will receive weekly progress updates via email to ensure they are gaining the knowledge they need within the timeframe you need. Insightful reporting that lets you know who’s working ahead and who may be lagging behind helps you easily see who might need a little extra guidance. Also, consider having interns partner up so they can learn from each other while reinforcing their own knowledge.
“Success has to do with deliberate practice. Practice must be focused, determined, and in an environment where there’s feedback.” – Malcolm Gladwell
As basic technical skill needs are met, focus will need to turn to practice within your company and development environment. Consider sending them on a codebase scavenger hunt. Grant them viewing access, then have them search for examples of key concepts they just learned to let them see how it is used in “the wild”. Seeing real-world examples of actual use will deepen their understanding and up their learning retention.
Brainstorm some value-add projects that your interns can tackle with their new skills. Having them take on real-world daily tasks will allow them to contribute and feel they are a part of the team. Consider allowing them to do basic updates to a website, or perhaps have them QA projects.
“In learning you will teach. And in teaching you will learn.” – Phil Collins
Training lays the foundation, mentors make the connection. Treehouse has equipped your interns with industry standard programming knowledge, allowing your senior staff to focus their precious time on how to apply those skills within your company processes. By engaging with students in meaningful ways, mentors help to ensure their success.
Consider pairing groups of 3-6 interns with a senior team member as a project lead. Give them a slightly more advanced real-world problem to tackle together, with a mentor to guide them. Have them participate in quick daily standups to address roadblocks and commit to tasks. Set aside time for a weekly cadence meeting for any deep dive questions that the mentor can help address. Providing communication guidelines from the beginning helps protect everyone’s time.
Use this framework as you build your own Internship Program. An early focus on training, reinforced by structured application of skills and an introduction to your unique environment will empower your interns to become productive team members.