Industry Trends

The Changing Face of Mobility Internships

The days of college students happily accepting any internship offer they might be lucky enough to land are over. Interns are a hot commodity these days, as HR managers seek to fill staffing holes left by the COVID-induced Great Resignation.

The talent war for interns is on, and not just to fill short-term project needs. A study by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) found that more than half of eligible interns become full-time employees. And, NACE says, five-year retention rates of in-house interns in 2021 were nearly 44%. A creative internship program can be a lynchpin in helping organizations staff up for long-term viability.

The New Reality: Multiple Offers

The competitive shift in internship programs puts candidates in the driver’s seat when it comes to evaluating and choosing offers. “Many college students are juggling multiple summer internship offers as companies try to lock in entry-level talent. So fierce is this year’s competition, recruiters and career advisers said, that some students are reneging on summer stints they accepted back in the fall as recruiters barrage them with interview requests and richer offers,” says the Wall Street Journal.

A Veris Insights study last fall found that 15% of students who had accepted a 2022 internship offer in November were still actively searching for another offer.

Making Your Internship Program Stand Out

Pre-COVID, employers had little incentive to allocate big dollars to internship budgets. In fact, it wasn’t that long ago that unpaid internships were common. In 2019, 43% of internships at for-profit companies were unpaid, says the National Association of Colleges and Employers. Fast forward to 2023, and many HR teams are struggling with how much more they’ll need to provide to interns to stay competitive.

So what’s the secret sauce to land the interns you need to help fill the talent pipeline in global mobility? The most successful programs are making dramatic pivots, from offering what may have been unpaid or low-paid gigs accepted simply for the experience and potential networking, to job offers with a wide scope of attractive benefits. Here are some ingredients to help set your internships apart from the competition.

Housing Support Levels the Playing Field

For mobility leaders recruiting interns for global teams, housing and relocation support are the most important benefits you can offer.

Soaring housing costs in many regions put an internship, even a paid one, out of the financial reach of many students. Students are more likely to consider an offer that includes some level of housing support. So, it should be no surprise that recent research shows housing-related support is the most commonly offered internship benefit. In a study conducted by Veris Insights, of those companies who say they offer housing support, more than half (58%) provide a lump sum (averaging $2,321 per semester) to offset housing costs, while 33.6% provide employer-rented living facilities—at no cost to the interns.

Fully supported corporate housing by far is the most popular type of housing support in today’s market. Many employers are offering co-housing in college dorms or apartments for corporate interns. Others are paying interns housing stipends to help offset regional cost-of-living variations.

Make it Easy to Get to Your Locations

But companies aren’t stopping there. Getting an intern to your desired work location can be costly, making transportation assistance an attractive perk for many who want to work remotely. NACE found that reimbursing travel costs is the second-most common intern perk. “In terms of reimbursing travel costs, 46.6% of employers reimburse for round-trip travel, averaging $1,477 per student per semester,” NACE reports.

Once on the ground in their new work location, interns often face the reality of daily commute costs. Though some organizations are shifting to virtual internships, many are moving back into the office solely or in a hybrid role.

The Institute of Student Employers (ISE) notes that the majority of internships and placements were delivered virtually with others using a hybrid approach. But as with other facets of the internship landscape, change is on the horizon. ISE notes that in the future, this is expected to switch so that the majority are using a hybrid approach, with around a quarter returning to mainly face-to-face work and less than 10% remaining mainly virtual.

What that means for interns are more costs to factor into a decision to relocate. Think creatively about how your company can make transportation a non-factor. Could you offer public transportation passes or reimbursement? Loaner bikes or scooters? Provide shuttle service to serve your corporate housing sites? Or provide financial incentives for carpool drivers or rideshare?

Creating a Gold-Standard Internship Program

No doubt, crafting an internship policy and program today requires a clear understanding of what students need and want in an internship program, balanced with the needs and goals of your organization. Here are five things that will help put your program in the “gold standard” category:

Fine-Tune Your Intern Policy.

Don’t expect your standard new-hire policy and relocation package to pass the intern test. Industry studies have found that nearly 40% of companies craft a separate policy just for their interns, factoring in the unique nuances of these temporary assignments. Start by understanding the business need.

Budget Wisely. Be Flexible.

Controlling costs begins with estimating expenses so that you can appropriately budget for your interns’ needs. By focusing on benefits that make sense for your interns’ life stage, you can tailor a policy that saves you money while increasing intern satisfaction. But remember that exceptions happen. Establish a process to manage exception requests from your interns—ensuring they have a clear understanding of your preferences for permitting exceptions and any approval authority they may undertake.

Leverage Your Partners.

Many companies just hand out money to interns who are then on their own to navigate suppliers. A smarter approach: leverage your supply chain for interns’ expenses.

Housing is often the keystone to a good intern program. Be sure you are working with a well-connected relocation management company that can source a diverse array of housing options in line with the duration of your program. This may include experienced nationwide corporate housing suppliers and extended-stay hotels which will screen all units to ensure they meet quality standards. A seasoned relocation management partner in turn can leverage temporary housing volume to secure discounted rates for you.

Take Care of Your Interns.

The offer letter is signed, and the student’s start date is set. Now, it’s your job to help interns adjust and have a positively memorable experience during their program. Invest in them, as they likely may be the future of your company. Look for a relocation management expert that takes your interns’ physical safety, mental health, and emotional well-being seriously. Look for little ways to help your interns (and even interns’ parents) feel comfortable about where they’re staying, how they’ll get to and from work, and what they can do with their free time.

Creatively Use Technology.

Today’s interns are more technologically savvy than ever before. A good intern program will give them the right tools to settle into their accommodations and feel at ease in what may be their first extended stay outside of home or college. What are some expectations your tech-literate new employees? Things like a 360-online expense management and payment portal. A dashboard for all things move-related. A digital resource library of destination information, contacts, activities calendar, and HR documents. Need more ideas? Use feedback from former interns to keep your internship technology continually evolving.


Ultimately, gold-standard internship programs are built from the ground up around one thing. The Big Picture Goal. That goal is to train someone who will be able to give back and be a value to the company.

CapRelo has decades of experience helping global mobility organizations create effective intern policies that enable them to recruit and retain the talent they need – even in the most challenging of markets. Our experienced account managers can help you wow your interns and build loyalty that translates into long-term retention.

Contact us for more information on how CapRelo can help you craft an outstanding intern experience.

About the Author

Angela Tan

Angela Tan, CRP, GMS- T

Vice President, Client Services

Angela is a pioneer in the global mobility industry! Not only has she been a valued member of the CapRelo team for 10+ years, Angela is skilled at administering a diverse portfolio of corporate clients with emphasis on healthcare, biotechnology, financ…