Employers Guide to Internships in Land Use Planning

Effective fall of 2001, UWSP is requiring all incoming Land Use Planning undergraduate students to earn credits in an internship experience. The goal of this internship is to gain valuable professional and practical experience in the field of land use planning. This internship will primarily be done in their junior year of college. This is a wonderful opportunity for students and potential employers alike.

 Why employ a student planning to intern?

Benefits of hiring a student intern include:

Benefits to employer

  • Identifying potential permanent employees
  • Providing an opportunity to establish a mutually important agency-university partnership
  • Fostering future leaders in the field

Benefits to student

  • Practical experience
  • Recommendations for graduate school or future employment
  • Development of professional relationships
  • Understanding professional responsibilities and effective working relationships

 What employers should expect of the students

Employers should expect the following attributes from student interns.

Professional conduct and appearance

Students will conduct themselves as professionals. They expect to be treated as professionals, and in turn, will conduct themselves as such. They are also aware of the need to dress professionally. The employers will tell students upon hiring what the expected dress is for that particular employer. Students are also aware of the need to have a neat and tidy appearance, whatever the dress style is at the agency.

Professional responsibilities

The students expect to take on professional responsibilities and to work side-by-side with professionals. They know the necessity of meeting deadlines and reporting to the supervisor.

Adequate academic preparation

The land use planning major at UW-SP is located within the College of Natural Resources. Because of this, students have a strong background in the sciences and hands-on experience in the field of natural resources. Student will have completed at least two planning classes before they apply for internships. The first course is entitled "Urban and Regional Planning Practice" and the second is "Land Use Planning and Project Impact Analysis". In addition, most students have a minor in various subjects (such as soil science, GIS, or small city analysis) that will add another dimension to their land use planning knowledge.

 Expectations of Students

Position and Project description  

All potential employers should develop a position and project description. The position description will give students an idea of the general projects that student interns will work on in that agency. The project description will be specific to each year, meaning that those are the projects that students will be working on for that time period. This is done to give students an idea of whom they want to apply to and what they would be doing if they accept the internship. This also serves to help employers to �stay on track� in regards to the projects they want the interns to accomplish.

Professional treatment 

Student interns expect to be part of the team of the employer. This means assigning the student interns projects that will challenge them and allows them to develop as a professional in the field. It is asked that minimum �grunt work� be allowed for student interns. They should be able to apply their education and brainpower for the majority of the internship.

Salary and benefits  

It is asked that students receive a fair wage for their work. Most students are partially, or even fully, funding their college tuition. Many rely on the money made during the summer to allow them to pay their tuition during the school year. Also, getting paid for a job motivates students and they tend to take their job more seriously. It is not expected that employers give student interns health benefits, sick days, or vacation days. If the student needs to take a day off, they are expected to talk to the employer in advance and make arrangements.

Working conditions  

For working conditions, interns need a working space and easy access to a personal computer, email and telephone.  

Housing for interns  

Employers are not expected to supply housing arrangements for students. It is suggested that the employers help the interns secure living arrangements in or around the community. This could be done by getting the word out that the intern is looking for a room or apartment to rent. It is also possible that a local college or university has dorm space available to use in the summer.

 How to Plan for a Student Intern

Position and Project description

The following is a sample position and project description (the items in bold are strongly recommended to be included to inform students fully about the position and to facilitate the application process):

Job Description for Planning and Zoning Department Intern

Employment period: late May through late August (12 weeks) Work schedule:
Hours per day: 7.5
Daily hours: 8 AM to 4:30 PM
Days per week: 5
Hours per week: 37.5

Minimum qualifications:  

  • Student in a university/college program in land use planning, natural resources management or closely related field
  • Strong oral and written communication skills
  • Basic knowledge of:
    • accepted planning principles and practices
    • land use law administration
    • resource inventory techniques
    • outreach education & citizen participation techniques
  • Basic/intermediate ability to utilize:
    • ArcView GIS systems
    • MS Office suite including Word, Power Point & Excel spreadsheet
    • Ability & current licensing to operate motor vehicle

Duties and Responsibilities:

  • Database and map creation within ArcView GIS systems
  • Assist in preparing public participation/hearing materials
  • Field inspection and documentation of existing landuses and other resource inventories
  • Research and collect data for particular elements of the comprehensive plan (e.g., inventory and evaluate existing plans and programs; analyze and project economic, social and resource trends, etc.)

Project description:

The following are projects specific to the summer of 2002:
  • Shoreline assessment of Lake Wisconsin
  • Creation of wellhead protection ordinance
  • Continue development of county-wide GIS information based on county-coordinate system
  • Creation of a sign regulation ordinance
Application Deadline: Please send resume and cover letter postmarked by March 12, 2002 to the address below.
Salary: $8.00/hr
Contact: If there are questions, please contact:
Green County Planning Department
1234 Main Street Anywhere, WI
Phone: (123) 456-789

Project scheduling

The key to making the experience valuable for both the employer and the student intern is to plan ahead. Careful planning will allow the employer to use the intern and their abilities to the fullest. If the employer wants to get the internship approved in the funding cycle of the agency, this needs to be done well in advance (usually done in the fall). This also includes applying for grants in a timely manner (see below).

Deadlines hiring notifying interns of job placement

Students want to know their summer internship is secure prior to spring break (which usually occurs the third week of March).

Submission of letter prior to starting 

Once an internship offer has been accepted, students are instructed to submit the job description to the university on agency/organization letterhead from internship employer before work begins. This letter should include the name, address, phone number, and email address of the employer.

UW-SP contact and monitoring

Each student intern has an advisor who will closely work with the student to ensure success in the internship process. A part of this involves the students submitting progress reports every two weeks to their advisor. The second part will be a site visit from the advisor halfway though the internship. The student and their supervisor must be present for this meeting. The purpose of this meeting will be to monitor progress on projects and to check on how the internship is progressing.

Planning for grant applications that fund intern

Planning ahead for student interns is imperative if the students are to be funded partially or wholly by grant money. If an employer is interested in obtaining grant money, see the �Grant Opportunities� booklet.

Several payment methods are possible:

  1. Payroll of employer This is the preferred method. Employers would simply add the interns on to the payroll as a salaried employee and pay them in the manner they pay other employees. 
  3. Contracted work or products In this method, students would be paid.
  5. University employee This is the least preferred method, due to the amount of paperwork involved. In this method, the employer would distribute the money to the university, who, in-turn, would pay the student. expectations, please let them know as soon as possible. This is a valuable learning experience for them. If the problems persist after several conversations, the employer may call the student's advisor and alert them to the situation. The advisor will then contact the intern and take appropriate action.

Intern performance monitoring and reporting

 Students must complete various steps to receive full credit for their internship experience.
  1. Contact with the university and student advisor Students will be expected to keep in regular contact with their advisors throughout the internship. (See student booklet for more detail.) 

  2. Progress reports Students are required to send progress reports to their advisors at the university every two weeks.

  3. Intervention regarding performance Communication is the key to keeping potential problems to a minimum. If the intern is not working up to your as contracted workers are paid. This method can be used if the employer does not want to add another person onto the payroll, but still wants to pay the students directly. 

  4. Internship evaluation and exit interview The employer will be expected to provide a written evaluation of the student's performance at the end of the internship (The university will provide the evaluation form). It is also expected that the employer will conduct an exit interview with the intern upon completion of the internship. This will provide the interns with verbal feedback about their performance.

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