By Ashley Mosley
SAN FRANCISCO (TheStreet) -- Internship programs are always evolving. Especially with the slew of controversies many programs have faced recently, you may be looking to reevaluate your goals and priorities to avoid similar issues.
One area many internship employers hope for is diversity. In fact, according to research conducted by my company, InternMatch, 81% of companies say diversity is a goal for their organization. It's easy to see why: Diversity, both in terms of background and educational experience, can help to create stronger ideas, offer varying perspectives and secure a multitude of skill sets.
But how you can incorporate diversity into your internship program? Here are four strategies to consider:
Participate in a diversity career fair.
A diversity career fair is a great place to find a wide range of candidates for your internship program. No matter if the diversity career fair is hosted by a university or a diversity-focused organization, it's important to attend in order to find diverse candidates. These recruiting events, which can either be in-person or virtual, can turn around your diversity initiatives and bring you closer to a more well-rounded team.
Try this: Partner with a university or organization to get a diversity career fair started. This will help you to get the ball rolling with your diversity initiatives, while working with institutions that may have a lot of influence.
Check out hackathons.
If you aren't familiar with hackathons, now is a great time to get involved. Hackathons are essentially contests, primarily in the tech field, that allow you to see students and young professionals pitch, program and present a certain idea or solution to a problem. This allows you to see how a wide range of people would solve an issue over a set time. Organizations such as Microsoft participate in hackathons, which ensures they are first in line for top talent.
Try this: Attend hackathons with a few goals in mind. Consider the criteria your ideal candidate should have, such as the diversity of their background, to help you to spot key players.
Not finding the people you're looking for? You may want to consider looking abroad for more diverse internship candidates. Since international interns are from a different country, they have a diverse background of education, skills and personal experiences. You may also have international clients or projects your international interns could prove an asset for.
Try this: While going the international route may sound intimidating, check out these great resources to gain insight about hiring abroad.
Offer competitive compensation.
Paid internships attract more diverse interns. Why? It's no secret students and young professionals are faced with massive student loan debt. Unfortunately, this alienates many groups who can't afford to take on unpaid opportunities. Research indicates this group is mostly African-American and Latino students, who are the highest percentage of college students that leave school with loan debt. By offering unpaid internships, you effectively single out many young professionals who don't see your program as a viable opportunity.
Try this: If you can't afford to pay your interns at least federal minimum wage, think about offering other forms of compensation, such as stipends, professional development opportunities or even health benefits. This will make your program more attractive to those diverse candidates who desire competitive compensation.
Diversity is a strong element in any successful internship program, which of course translates into better hires and awesome teams. In the end, diverse interns can create a great backbone for your team, which shapes innovation, ideas and pushes your organization into a successful future.
What do you think about diversity internship initiatives? Do you have diverse interns on your team?
Ashley Mosley is Community Engagement Manager of InternMatch, an online platform connecting the best intern candidates and employers. Connect with Ashley and InternMatch on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.