New Flexible Learning Internship Playbook to Further Cater to Diverse Internship Needs

February 3rd, 2021

Northeast Indiana Employers Benefit from Free Internship Resource

The Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership is working with the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) to develop an addendum to Indiana INTERN.net’s (IIT) Indiana Employer’s Guide to Internships that provides expanded guidance for delivering internships customized to meet the needs of adult students beyond “traditional”  youth interns. We realized that these unique needs are not, in fact, unique to any single sub-group and can be applied to allow for greater flexibility for both traditional/youth and adult interns.

A key part of the development of the Flexible Learning Internship Playbook (FLIP) leveraged the expertise and experience of CAEL in work-based and lifelong learning as well as input on elements of successful internships from internship coordinators, faculty, workforce professionals, employers and individual students who have participated in internships.

The Playbook includes guidance on greater flexibility in terms of internship timeframes. Many workers have additional demands on their time—school or class time, another job, childcare, or other family time commitments. The FLIP framework suggests more compact internships, or modularized and competency-based—rather than time-based models.

It recommends that the best practice in internships is to compensate interns, given the many barriers that might prevent participation and full engagement in the internship process.  The FLIP provides additional guidance on how to structure internships including highlighting the goals of each internship, greater depth in supervision depending on intern needs and multi-directional mentoring and peer leadership. An innovative option is to assist a worker in converting their current job into an internship that can provide access to additional roles, duties and challenges while building additional skills and competencies toward advancement within the company.  This model can benefit businesses as part of a career pathway and support the retention of quality workers.

Included in the FLIP are several useful tools and assessments that can be used by the employer and intern to derive a greater value from the internship experience.

  • The first of these tools is a crucial but often overlooked tool for employers: An Internship Program Assessment, which provides a series of reflective questions that ask “Should we have an internship? and “What do we need to be able to host a quality internship?”  
  • Other tools in the Playbook include resources for Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) and examples such as test-out exams, national exams, portfolio assessments and certification mapping. Portfolio assessments are important to academic and internship planning in that they detail the intern’s essential or workplace skills, applied learning skills, and overall competencies so both the intern and the current (or future) employer has a clear understanding of skills mastery expectations.  
  • Other strategies to assess the skills an intern develops through an internship include project-based assessments and activities that can be used to link academic learning to internship activities—such as developing a business plan, project plan, or a research paper. CAEL’s Playbook provides examples of these customized to major industry sectors.  These project-based activities can often be a part of a larger capstone project at the end of an internship that serves to fully incorporate all learning and skills and add to the student’s work Portfolio and proof of competency.

Indiana’s INTERN.net guidance and this additional resource can benefit employers and educators as they work to build more flexible and modularized internships that better align with the future of education and the workplace and provide greater opportunities for students to participate in important work-based learning activities.

The new FLIP Playbook is being distributed by the Regional Partnership and is also being integrated by Indiana’s INTERN.net into future internship guidance. For information on how to get a copy or learn about additional resources, please reach out to Director of Talent Initiatives Sonya Snellenberger-Holm

- By Claire Linnemeier, Director of Consulting Projects for the Council for Adult & Experiential Learning (CAEL)

Interested in learning how we can help with your organization's internship program? Contact us for information and free resources to start or enhance your internship program.

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