How to Structure an Effective Internship Program

Updated April 2015

Editor’s note: Developing and implementing intern programs — including training for the interns — is part of what we do here at Fuentek. You can read more of our insights on intern programs or contact us to discuss how Fuentek can help your TTO establish an effective internship program.

Back in November, I urged technology transfer offices (TTOs) to take caution when using interns. They can be a great help… if you structure it right.

Since there’s more to say about this topic, I decided to write a paper detailing the best practices for effective TTO internship programs.

My recommendations are based on Fuentek’s experience with establishing internship programs for the Office of Technology Management at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign and other universities. Launched in 2001, the internship program in UIUC’s OTM is still thriving today.

So what did we discover in establishing these programs?

  • Start early: Begin the hiring process as early as possible to ensure the best possible pool of applicants.
  • Choose the right students: Look for MBA students with technical backgrounds who are ending their first year so that they are available through the summer and on a part-time basis during their second year. (Read more about the importance of choosing the right students.)
  • Focus on screening: Have interns work only on screenings (not other aspects of technology transfer like marketing), and use them to screen incoming technologies rather than cleaning out a backlog of technologies.
  • Train thoroughly: Provide step-by-step guidance on the entire screening process, explaining how the interns’ role is part of the bigger picture as well as the finer details of their assignments. Proper training of interns is critically important.
  • Expect a learning curve: Be prepared for the interns to take longer than professional staff to complete a screening (8 to 15 hours, versus 1 to 4 hours), and account for this additional time in your expectations and schedules. (Read more about expectations for interns.)
  • Evaluate and improve: Evaluate the interns’ work along the way to check for thoroughness of information and to validate their recommendations to see if any modifications to the training are needed. (Read more about the importance of feedback and mentoring.)

What has been your experience with intern programs?

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Posted by Laura Schoppe

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