Internships are called the gateway to employment. Employers offer a chance to get in the door and do meaningful work, while students jump at the chance to build their personal brand. Ideally, this is a win-win situation for either party. Unfortunately, many employers don’t make the full use of their internship program and follow up disengaging internship opportunities with little to no job prospects.

For students, internships can be especially promising: one study from Southwestern University found that students enrolled in one were 13% more likely to find full-time employment upon graduation. And while a 13% increase in odds is a benefit, the conditions of an internship can be devastating. One Toronto Star report estimated that there are around 300,000 unpaid internship positions in Ontario. Those positions are not only devaluing students, but also damaging employer’s productivity.

To truly make the most out of an internship, it is best to implement a program centred around your Employment Value Proposition. Ideally, every position within your organization should be focused around this prospect. Specifically, your internship should focus on Work, Organization, Opportunity, Rewards and People.

The work should be as meaningful and deliverable as a full-time employee. That means your intern should have the same ownership of deliverable for their project that everyone else does at your organization. You should also try to incorporate some activities outside the intern’s job description to demonstrate and show the various aspects of your entire organization. Offer networking opportunities or mentorship programs as well, to allow the intern to develop a sense of the people at your company.

Their opportunity and rewards should be the same as an entry-level position. That means that performance reviews, pay levels, and incentives should match or be similar to the entry-level full-time positions that you employ.

An internship is not a student position, but a short-term full-time learning experience for both your organization and the intern.