Preparing to Host Interns During the Summer of 2014 Begins with a Plan!

Smith-Lever logoIn the summer of 2014, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension will host a number college interns. Research indicates that providing college students with meaningful internship opportunities with employers increases the chance that they will stay in that career field after graduation.

It is important that District Extension Administrators and County Extension Directors take time to carefully plan an effective internship program. Listed below are several key elements that are crucial to a successful internship program;

  • Effective Supervision- Due to the training nature of an internship, it is imperative that interns are provided with sufficient supervision. Considerable time investment will be needed, especially on the front-end, to plan for and implement necessary training. It is also recommended that the host/mentor agent plan ongoing weekly meetings to stay up-to-date with the intern’s progress. Use care in identifying a seasoned staff member who “buys in” to the importance of utilizing interns. The host/mentor agent should realize that the purpose of an internship is two-fold. Interns will provide some useful assistance for Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service while also gaining on-the-job training that will assist them with their future career(hopefully as a County Extension Agent).
  • Meaningful Assignments- Gone are the days of using interns as simple “go-fers”. Students are seeking opportunities that will stimulate them and provide real experience. A good internship program will ensure the assignment of challenging projects and tasks. Effective assignments are coupled with adequate supervision so as to provide an information resource and to ensure interns are keeping pace. Host/Mentor agents should be sure to have some additional projects available in case an intern successfully completes a project ahead of schedule. Whenever possible, interns should participate in events such as staff meetings and should be provided opportunities for networking and informational interviewing with key personnel such as Agents, District Extension Administers, County Extension Directors, Regional Program Directors and Specialists .
  • Appropriate Documentation– Documentation is very important for effective learning to take place. It is strongly advisable that an host/mentor agent and intern create mutually agreed upon learning objectives. Well documented learning objectives provide clear direction and targeted goals for the intern. This ensures both parties envision the same experience and reduces the possibility of misunderstanding and disappointment. It is imperative that effective learning objectives be concise and measurable.
  • Ensure Interns Feel Welcome– Just as you would a new full-time employee, it is very important that interns be provided with a warm introduction to Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. Not only are interns new to Extension, in many cases, they are new to the professional world of work. Once interns start, they should review necessary policies. Acquaint them to their work space and environment by introducing them to co-workers. Interns should become familiar with Extension’s communication process and chain of accountability. You may even want to plan lunch activities with various staff members for the first week. Many organizations plan intern group outings and special events to recognize interns’ accomplishments.
  • Evaluation– An internship can only be a true learning experience if constructive feedback is provided. An effective evaluation will focus on the interns’ learning objectives that were identified at the start of the internship. Supervisors should take time to evaluate both a students positive accomplishments and weaknesses. If an intern was unable to meet their learning objectives, suggestions for improvement should be given.

It is important that District Extension Administrators and County Extension Directors who are supervising internships in their District or County work with host/mentor agents to ensure that the agency realizes benefits from internships.  District Extension Administrators and County Extension Directors should also be sure to continue recruiting from this pool of interns when vacancies occur in their respective Districts or Counties.  Remember our future success is dependent on our ability to attract a talented, diverse and competent workforce.  The time we spend with interns now is an investment in our future.


Employers use experiential education to combat recruiting blues. [3 paragraphs]. National Association of Colleges and Employers: Job Outlook 2000 Online Version [Website]. Available:

This Article was Posted by Drs. Darrell A. Dromgoole and Susan Ballabina, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.

Categories: Improve Recruitment and Retention