Isabella Johnston

Winter Park, Florida

Pivot Business Consulting
Personal LinkedIn Profile

Why Your Business Should Want A 5-Star Intern Program

Think back to when you were getting your first job – you might remember it was hard getting someone to take you seriously, that you actually had something to contribute. Last year, there were over 20.5 million students attending colleges and universities (National Center for Education Statistics, 2016). That means there are a lot of people looking for opportunities to be hired by employers.

If you are thinking of bringing in unpaid interns to work with you, think about the value of having a 5-Star Intern Program that aligns with the Department of Labor’s 6 criteria for unpaid Internships.


The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) defines the term “employ” very broadly as including to “suffer or permit to work.” Covered and non-exempt individuals who are “suffered or permitted” to work must be compensated under the law for the services they perform for an employer. Internships in the “for-profit” private sector will most often be viewed as employment, unless the test described below relating to trainees is met. Interns in the “for-profit” private sector who qualify as employees rather than trainees typically must be paid at least the minimum wage and overtime compensation for hours worked over forty in a workweek.

The Test For Unpaid Interns

There are some circumstances under which individuals who participate in “for-profit” private sector internships or training programs may do so without compensation. The Supreme Court has held that the term "suffer or permit to work" cannot be interpreted so as to make a person whose work serves only his or her own interest an employee of another who provides aid or instruction. This may apply to interns who receive training for their own educational benefit if the training meets certain criteria. The determination of whether an internship or training program meets this exclusion depends upon all of the facts and circumstances of each such program.

The following six criteria must be applied when making this determination:

1. The internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment;

2. The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern;

3. The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff;

4. The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded;

5. The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship; and

6. The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.

Really technical language and something entrepreneurs should definitely take notice of. When I consult with entrepreneurs and employers of all sizes that want to create an intern program, I remind them, they are you BEFORE you had experience. Here are 10 benefits to keep in mind when using interns in your business.

1. They are short-term talent. Keep things simple.

2. Helps build your company legit about using talent.

3. You can try out a student and they could be your next unicorn.

4. Embrace diversity, our world is a small place.

5. Helps you complete projects that have been hanging on for a long time.

6. Creates a pipeline of great talent, again remember you were looking for your first job also.

7. Helps you develop your mentor skills. Everyone should strive to be a good servant mentor.

8. Creates a continuous learning environment.

9. Don’t get stuck in your ways, new energy is a good thing.

10. Innovate, innovate, innovate.
Learn more about Isabella Johnston