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Strategies to create a more diverse and inclusive internship program

Written by Angela Finding

There are many factors to consider when building and growing your company’s internship program such as organizing your program internally, creating a work plan for students, recruiting and hiring, determining compensation, and much more. Ensuring your program is diverse and inclusive should be part of your overall program strategy but unfortunately this is often missed when it comes to building internship programs.

So what does it mean to have a diverse and inclusive internship program? Builtin.com summarizes it well, diversity refers to the traits and characteristics that make people unique while inclusion refers to the behaviors and social norms that ensure people feel welcome. The same factors that are applied to the workplace to create a more diverse and inclusive environment should be applied to the internship program. 

According to NACE’s 2017 student report, working for a diversity-conscious employer is important. For African-American men and women, the preference to work for a diversity-conscious employer was so intense that it was the single most important of all 18 job/employer attributes, superseding even the opportunity to develop job-specific skills.

If you have evaluated your internship program and early talent strategy, and realize you need to focus more on diversity and inclusion, below are strategies to get started:

  1. Change your recruitment efforts. If your traditional recruitment strategy does not include a diverse talent pool, you need to expand and update your outreach. This could include adding new schools to your university outreach plan, working more closely with career services at the colleges and universities, and/or reaching out to minority professional associations.
  2. Do not leave the responsibility of creating a more diverse and inclusive program to the internship program manager or HR. This is an organization-wide focus and requires the support of all internal stakeholders.
  3. Create a resource group or internal committee that is focused on diversity and inclusion. This group can be part of your overall company strategy or focused on your internship program.
  4. Reach out to other companies who have strong diversity hiring initiatives and a strong culture of inclusion and get some ideas and tips from them!
  5. Track the data. Make sure you are keeping accurate records of your internship and early talent hiring efforts. This will help you identify where you have gaps and adjust your strategy.

There are many great resources available online that can help companies and organizations of all sizes. GCP’s Equity and Inclusion division has an online best practices library that includes articles and research on diversity and inclusion.  You can begin by doing your research and understanding what it truly means to be inclusive, taking what you learn and creating an authentic, inclusive internship experience that benefits both your organization and the students who have chosen your company.

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