I interned last summer at Siemens Energy, working on internal software. Well, sort of working on internal software. My manager didn't have a project ready for me on my first day, then it took him a few weeks to pull something together. When he did, I was done within two weeks.
I was useful, effective, and efficient on the project I was given. Yet because my project was not designed in advance, I was stuck sitting around in the office for much of the summer and felt like a waste of Siemens' money.
Not only does this get less out of the intern it also lowers motivation and makes you feel like your project isn't important at all.
Hopefully the interns were paid well (this is relative) and learned a lot.
Lots of communication is good for that.
If they needed to do any deep thinking, I hoped they would have been allowed to work from home for a day.
Exactly my experience for my first internship, though it was far from that crowded. We picked up C# and a large framework (and some, a second language) well enough to be productive in a week and a half. (my top-level comment has more details)
Probably not quite as much fun though.
It's weird that in the context of outsourcing people are outraged at setups like that but in the context of interns it's fine.
And if we can do all our jobs with interns, the job prospects of the former interns will be what?
They came to Australia and worked for me for five months. They brought their own laptops so I only had to provide a couple of desks, second monitor for each and a chair. I paid them in accordance with a typical traineeship for them back home (about AUD150/week, which would be around USD135/week). Their rent (at the place of a friend of mine) was AUD100/week and they supplemented their living costs with savings and help from their parents.
They were pretty raw as web designers and HTML/CSS guys but got a lot of opportunities to learn new skills and fill gaps with simpler work. Generally, they had paid for themselves each week by the end of each Monday. They loved the experience (we do drink beer and play a lot of table tennis here at the office!) and it worked really well for me also.
I am a general web studio first and foremost but was able to use them on various side projects as well - cutting PSDs to HTML, doing logo and page concepts, general maintenance, etc.
Their supervisor is looking to send more over later this year - they have intakes (outtakes?) in February and September. Will definitely be doing it again.
Worth echoing caryme's comment about designing intern projects in advance. With a sudden boost in manpower to a small business (I'm a sole director with two employees normally) you can quickly burn through work and have time to kill. In those times, it's good to have a few side projects you've been meaning to start. As a sole founder, try not to leave yourself as the chokepoint if you can avoid it.
Happy to answer any questions about it if people are interested.
I heard this intern intensive approach is quite popular with large tech companies in China, where up to half of the workforce could be interns.
The important parts for us to being up and running quickly, and being productive? Nearly full-time access to one of their main developers for the first two weeks, they knew precisely what was needed (lots of similar code, but not similar enough to DRY up), and we were in the same room. For at least half the summer, we were throwing questions back and forth every couple minutes when we couldn't remember something, and the vast majority of the time one of us would remember. Immediate question & response was absolutely invaluable, and I think was the single most important tool to speed-learning what we needed to know. As time went on our tasks diverged and we knew more, so we didn't need questions answered as often, but it was massively useful at the beginning.
Of course, it didn't hurt that they paid quite well. Motivation is always useful.
Most of the major companies (MS, GOOG, etc) pay in excess of $30/hr (some as high as $40/hr) for interns. This is way, way beyond the high end of campus jobs.
These guys were taking advantage of the fact that MIT in particular gives the month of January to students to work on their own stuff. MS, GOOG, etc wouldn't go through the HR headache and give high pay to an intern if he/she was only going to be around for a month.
And keep in mind that if you offer that much for a CS intern, you'll have serious competition on your hands. Yes, you'll likely get excellent students, but you'll need to hire a small army of people to weed them out effectively if you want "the best".
- most of this pool of students you do not want to tap into. They're the ones who will do more harm than good, assuming they were even interested in doing any work. My impression from my time in college was that the majority of my colleagues were utterly incompetent and had no real desire to become competent. There's no hope for these people, and IMHO they make up the bulk of the "there are no jobs out there!" crowd upon graduation. These are the guys who do the bare minimum on assignments and have never written a line of code that wasn't required by a class, and get indignant when their framed piece of paper doesn't automatically deliver big paychecks on a silver platter.
- the rest are worthwhile talent, but competition amongst employers for many of them is fierce. I have a friend right now who has extremely high-paying offers from just about every big software shop out there, as a soon-to-graduate undergrad. In recent years I've seen MS (and some other companies) poach interns from other tech companies at the interview stage. Pay levels are quite high, approaching full-time levels in some places.
As a cost-conscious startup, you have to work hard to find the people that the Big Boys have overlooked. Recruitment processes is an extremely imprecise science, and from experience I've seen a lot of qualified people unfairly rejected because of dumb things like not having the right keywords in a resume to pass the inbound filter, or edged out because they froze up on a single interview question. There are quite a few of these guys out there, but the problem is that because many do not know how to market themselves, it's hard to distinguish them from the incompetent, worthless demographic.
- Get a bunch of well-respected people together
- Create something exciting
- Use your connections to find people that you know are good
I and a lot of people I know are/were working (not as interns) alongside school and many internships at the university are payed.
The pay might not be as high as what you'd get after you graduate but it's definitively better than most working class jobs that do not require any formal education.
The grandfather-post's observation applies more to liberal arts students (Geistes- und Sozialwissenschaften). With a math degree in Germany I never had a problem getting a paid internship during my studies. Some of my friends in the liberal arts, however, have to do unpaid interships even after finishing their studies.
Of course the media perception is dominated by liberal arts guys, because they are the ones who complain loudly and in a matter sympathetic to journalists. (While the more technical minded people are too busy making money and enjoying themselves.) Hence the "Generation Praktikum".
 my sister is in that boat right now - she can find paid unskilled work or unpaid design work; she's in Berlin, though
I figured that if you were getting paid nothing while working on something profitable for a company, it was assumed you were being compensated with experience. But apparently, all the company can do is train you while deriving zero benefit from your training. This seems like a stupid law.