Hire a Summer Student: Best Practices for a Great Experience
14 Jan 2016
POSTED BY: Admin | Comments: 0


By: Leanne Zacharias


Summer may be the last thing on your mind right now, but it’s not too early to start planning for hiring summer students this year!  Working with summer students can be an ideal way to get short-term projects done, cover vacation leaves of full-time staff, and feed your talent pipeline which may lead to future employment after graduation.  We can’t deny that young workers are going to become the future of the workforce, and hiring a summer student is your chance to influence their career in a positive way. 

Here are top tips for a successful summer student experience for both you and the student:



There are provincial and federal grant funding options for nonprofit organizations. They have different eligibility standards, wage subsidies, and application processes, so check out the following links for more details. 

Note: the same student can’t receive funding from both programs, but if you want to hire two summer students, you could apply for one student under the provincial program, and the other from the federal program. Also, unionized organizations will need to attach written consent from the Collective Bargaining Agent and submit it with the application if the summer student position will be in scope.  



When hiring a summer student for your nonprofit, target channels that reach a student audience. Remember, many post-secondary students return to their hometown for the summer, so look beyond who is currently living in your community. Check out school divisions and post-secondary institutions for career fairs to attend. Find job posting boards that relate to your audience, such as Caring Careers. If your organization has social media, it’s a great way to share postings.

Word of mouth is one of the most effective ways to recruit summer students. Let your staff know you are hiring students, and talk to previous summer students for referrals. You could even approach students that you know that have the skills and attitude that you are looking for and encourage them to apply for the job!



Students are looking for meaningful work experience, so job design is important. Think outside the box about what experiences would be meaningful and valuable for a student, and how the work they will be doing connects to the organization’s big picture.   Students are accustomed to learning, so teach them the necessary skills that will prepare them to achieve success in this position and for future success. Remember, you are training future leaders!  



While a summer student position is temporary, their experience being employed with your organization will last a lifetime. This experience can be enhanced with a planned approach to orientation and onboarding.  Be intentional with what training they receive and the person who trains them, as this will shape both their attitude and their perception of the organization. The first day of work creates a lasting impression, so limit first day jitters by communicating with the student prior to their start date, and be excited to see them on day one and beyond! 



To improve next years’ experience, do an exit interview! Asking for feedback makes the student feel valued and heard, which strengthens the working relationship. This is good for retention if they are considering coming back the following summer. But even if they don’t come back, you may still get valuable insight into the workplace to improve the experience for the student you hire next year. Students often have a large network of influence, so positive summer work experience can have ripple effects in your recruitment and retention for years to come.


Hiring a summer student can bring a new energy and passion to an organization, with many benefits for both the student and the employer.  Comment below if you’ve hired a summer student. How has is benefited your organization?  Do you have any advice for others?

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