For companies, it’s a chance to tap into a pool of potential future candidates and leverage their skills to accomplish immediate goals. For interns, it’s an opportunity to earn practical job experience, deepen skill sets and absorb the corporate culture.
For both, it’s a chance to “test-drive” a business partnership to determine if it could ultimately lead to a long-term, perfect fit.
Despite this mutual value, relocation isn’t typically factored into an internship program. Instead, focus is placed on things like intern selection, program objectives, and training.
This is unfortunate, because mobility benefits can prove a key differentiator for attracting the best and brightest intern talent. In fact, some organizations have opted to implement a separate intern mobility policy, which varies—sometimes significantly—from existing policies in terms of benefits and administration.
Duty of Care in Internships
Housing accommodations is typically the most expensive mobility benefit provided to interns. Some companies cover the entire cost, while others expect the intern to pitch in. Regardless of their approach, all companies should recognize the duty of care issues associated with intern housing. Companies have an obligation to ensure the safety and well-being of their interns, and the accommodations they offer should reflect that. Remember that this is your interns’ first impression of your company’s culture as their potential future employer.
Often the intern demographic is considerably different from an organization’s “typical” mobile workforce, which may be older, more senior in job level, or require more traditional benefits (think home sale/purchase or dependent support). It is vital that any company considering drafting an internship mobility policy, or at least detailing the benefits that may be offered to interns, understand their intern population and their intern program goals.
The Complexities of Intern Housing
Increasingly, companies are offering housing benefits to their interns and are employing practices that are unique to this demographic.
Many companies will pay for all of the housing costs of the internship. While this is most common in the oil and gas industry as well as large organizations, it is sometimes seen among other industries and mid-size firms as well. On the other hand, some organizations—particularly those with very competitive intern programs—require their interns to contribute to the cost of housing. This is often a fixed amount, ranging from $600 to $800 per month.
Most interns, all too familiar with dorm life, wouldn’t blink at the fact that companies typically encourage (or in some instances require) sharing of living quarters. It’s not unheard of for a company to tailor the amount of the employee housing contribution based on whether the intern is willing to share an apartment. When requiring shared apartments, best practice dictates that the apartment should contain separate bedroom and bathroom facilities for each person and that the tenants are the same gender.
Given the complexities around this one benefit, the majority of organizations will work with a corporate housing provider when developing intern programs.
Marian Sauers, Regional Director at Weichert Corporate Housing, has worked with many companies to create mobility programs tailored specifically to internship goals and requirements. She points out that for organizations with extensive intern needs, especially those based in an urban area with a number of intern programs or with limited housing options, working with an experienced provider is vital.
Companies with large or complex intern programs are more likely to require a high volume of housing options, often concentrated around a specific geographic location, since many interns rely on public transportation,” Marian explains. “In addition, these programs will have unique billing needs. Partnering with a provider that can facilitate payments and reporting will help ensure your intern program costs are contained and effectively monitored.Marian Sauers
Alexandra Ilyashova, Client Relationship Manager with Weichert Corporate Housing, agrees. “Having a trusted partner handling the housing intern program frees the organization up to focus on the broader intern program.”
When managed right, internships are a long-term strategy for getting the right people in the door. A positive “first impression” extends beyond the program and includes the overall experience. A customized intern mobility program will successfully balance costs while conveying the ideal image of the organization as an employer of choice.