NACE Journal, November 2018
See Also: Engaging Students: The On-Campus Internship Program Read More
No program launches without experiencing some challenges along the way, and UPIC was no different. There were a number of hurdles the UPIC faced initially.
- The hiring and payroll process: One of the first challenges for the program was figuring out how the hiring and payroll process was going to work on campus. Would the central human resource department handle hiring, timesheet collection, and payroll distribution; would those steps be the responsibility of each mentoring department; or would we need to hire new staff members and manage each of those processes from the UPIC office?
Ultimately, it was decided that the last option would be best suited for Clemson, and the UPIC office would be responsible for all of the hiring, payroll processing, and related processes.
There were also some additional issues related to payroll: Hourly rates for the interns were above minimum wage, lining up with national averages for internship pay rates, and a new university job classification had to be established as a result. This needed the approval of the central human resources department. National data were used to justify the increased hourly rates.
- Staffing up: Not surprisingly, recruiting new staff members and securing office space for those new staff members in a short timeframe (eight months) were also key challenges initially.
- Program mechanics and partnerships: There were challenges around managing the “back end” of the program. Initially, the program was managed through a simple spreadsheet, but the growth of the program and the need to communicate with other systems on campus required something much more advanced than a basic spreadsheet. In response, a custom database software program was developed by the university information technology division to help manage the complexities associated with running the program.
Although most participants—students and university staff and faculty alike—adhered to the program’s parameters, some did not initially. For example, some students filed incomplete paperwork, which created problems with assigning salary costs to the relevant department, issuing grades, and determining outcomes data. In some cases, the mentor did not help the intern secure the appropriate number of hours required or had the intern work beyond the prescribed number of hours. To counter such issues, one strategy leveraged was to implement a strong scoring rubric to vet internship submissions from potential mentors.
- Balancing growth and quality: An ongoing focus for the staff is balancing the university’s expectations of quick growth and scalability of the program while ensuring quality. And, other aspects of the program require balancing, e.g., capping student work hours at 28 hours per week to stay in link with Affordable Care Act guidelines and carefully maintaining a budget directly impacted by the inconsistencies associated with paying interns hourly wages.
As the program evolves to meet new demands, new challenges arise. For example, to encourage mentors to provide opportunities to younger students, limitations are now put on the number of times a student can receive split funding from UPIC. Mentors that wish to hire the same interns semester after semester instead of recruiting new talent to grow and develop at the university now need to fund those seasoned interns at 100 percent of the salary after the fourth experience. To receive shared funding, mentors need to continue to hire students fairly new to the program.
Likewise, the previously available range of 160 to 175 hours for split funding has been reduced to 160 hours in an effort to better control and monitor the budget. A flexible range of 15 hours per student may not seem like much, but hundreds of students are participating in the program each semester, and projections off by just 1 percent can cause a $14,000 disruption in the budget. Similarly, to ensure that the university account strings provided for salary sharing are complete and accurate, the name and e-mail of each mentoring department’s business officer is now part of the application form.
Finally, initially, interns were not required to enroll in an internship course. Now, students taking part are enrolled in career services’ zero-credit internship course, ensuring that the academic requirements of the program are adhered to.