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Developing an HRD Internship Program for Undergraduate Students

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Fri Feb 22 2013

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Last semester, I conducted the first internship class for the HRD undergraduate students at my university. Our undergraduate program is just under three years old, and we finally had students approaching graduation and in need of the required internship.

I spent a great deal of time last summer brainstorming and searching the Internet on how to best structure our internship program. I had been told by our undergraduate program coordinator that she wanted to list the class as a hybrid format, which meant that I had to spend at least 21 hours in the classroom with the students during the semester. So, I was ultimately tasked with building an internship program that would not only give the students an opportunity to work as an employee in an HRD role, but would also provide valuable experience by keeping them engaged in a classroom format.

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Finding Internships

In the beginning, I stressed about how to help the students secure internship opportunities. Ideally, students would find their own internships with little intervention from me, but that was unlikely given the newness of our program and the undergraduate students’ limited connections with the world of HRD practitioners.

As a result, I developed a call for internships. I merely created a .pdf document that contained information about our program (including courses that the students should have completed by the time they are seeking internships), expectations for companies and supervisors that decide to offer an internship, instructions for submitting an internship opportunity to the program, and the deadline.

This call for internships was distributed to the program’s HRD Advisory Board, which is a group of established local HRD practitioners who make themselves available to our program for guidance and collaboration. Our HRD faculty members also emailed the call for internships to their own professional contacts and posted the call on their LinkedIn pages. This strategy proved successful for finding an internship for nearly all of our internship students last semester. I think this is another testament to the power of academics and practitioners joining forces to make a positive impact on the future of the HRD field.

Incorporating Classroom Time

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My second concern was the classroom portion of the class. My friend, Google, indicated that many internship programs do not require a classroom component. In those cases, students were in a supervised internship and merely checked in with their instructor at predetermined times, such as the beginning of the semester and the end of the semester. In my online searching, I did manage to identify a few internship programs that included some discussion activities, which were often in an online forum.

So, I began keeping a list of “internship topics” that I could use in my own class. These basically centered on professionalism and conduct in the workplace. For instance, I commonly found topics like diversity, communication, and project management when I was searching through online examples of internship programs. Ultimately, I drafted a list of topics that I thought worthy and relevant, and I decided to devote a class meeting to each topic.

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