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Steps to hiring an intern

By Beatrice Thomas

Interns can bring a fresh approach to your workplace and can play a key role in your future workforce.

CCIWA Workforce Skills Manager Rebecca Elder says businesses often understate the benefit of youth and new graduates contributing within a workplace.

“They've got new technologies, new perspectives and can help with your customer focus,” she says.

We outline how to bring an intern into your business.

If you are going to pay your intern, pay guidelines in the National Employment Standards apply.

For unpaid intern work, refer to the Fair Work Commission vocational placement guidelines relating to unpaid work for student placements.

When doing a placement through a tertiary institution such as a university, usually a placement will provide the student with course credits.

In such cases, workplaces must comply with the criteria set out by the university or similar institution.

Similar rules apply if you are hiring a person from school, university of TAFE.

“They are not there to make money for the business – they are there to learn,” Elder explains.

“Students can do a lot, but they are particularly good at doing research and applying their knowledge in a work setting.”

Have a clear picture of what an intern could do within your business.

One possibility is they undertake projects, or they could do more generalist work - just make sure it’s something within their capabilities.

Elder adds that it's ideal if interns don't just work on one project, but are provided with exposure to a range of areas within the business.

“This is usually a person’s first exposure to a workplace environment,” she says.

Depending on your type of business, an apprentice or trainee may be more suitable to the work.

When it comes to recruiting for an intern, CCIWA can help connect you to the right person.

CCIWA’s Workplace Integrated Learning program works with Curtin University’s science, engineering, business and law faculties.

As Elder explains, getting through to universities and other educational establishments can sometimes be tricky for employers.

When advertising for an intern role, provide as much detail about the position as possible, including what tasks and duties they will perform.

Reach out to as many schools, universities or TAFEs as possible if you are doing the process yourself.

If you are paying your intern, you need to go through the same protocols you would with a regular employee, including a contract of employment.

If you are not paying them, you need to write a letter of intent outlining who will be in charge of the process and any understanding between your business and the school, university, or TAFE.

There are a number of compliance measures you need to take into account:

  • Provide a safe workplace and adequate supervision.
  • If the placement is unpaid, there is a maximum amount of hours a student can complete.
  • Interns might need to complete assessment tasks as part of their placement.
  • Their placement may need to coincide with their semester dates, depending on the institution.

Elder says that it pays to develop a system that helps you take on more interns, which makes the initial set-up process worth it.

Welcome your intern to your workplace by showing them around, introducing them to other employees and explaining the culture of your organisation.

Make sure they are up to speed with your health and safety protocols.

It is crucial to provide continued support and guidance throughout an intern’s time at your business.

Elder explains that your intern will want to build a network and see whether they will fit as a permanent employee, so introducing them to your workforce is key.

For advice and more information on hiring and intern, contact CCIWA's Employee Relations Advice Centre on (08) 9365 7660. 

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