Employers with their interns posing for a photo

Mentoring an MBA Intern

Employers have the opportunity to coach and mentor the students they hire from our MBA internship program. An effective work-integrated learning (WIL) experience has the student and the employer working together to accomplish the goals of both the student and the organization. Students at VIU, originate from a range of backgrounds and can add new perspectives, creativity and innovation to the workplace. Along with their innate understanding of technology applications our students are skilled and motivated and prepared to apply their education.

Roles and Responsibilities

The employer supervisor plays a key role as a co-educator in the training and learning process of the student.

This person will be an experienced and qualified individual who will be available throughout the work term. Specific responsibilities include:

  • To provide the student with meaningful work related to their field of study.
  • To participate in the development of the learning goals of the student at the outset of the work term.
  • To arrange for introductions and orientation, including a review of policies and procedures, necessary to facilitate the student’s successful entry into the organization.
  • To clearly outline and articulate expectations of the student.
  • To oversee the student’s progress and to provide feedback to the student on their performance, including: ongoing informal feedback as needed to correct or encourage, and one formal feedback discussion in collaboration with the student and internship work-integrated learning faculty (mid-point assessment).
  • To discuss in a timely manner, any concerns regarding student progress with the work-integrated learning faculty as needed.
  • Ensure that any site-specific protocol and work term agreements are met.

Accident or injury

It is the responsibility of the employer supervisor to ensure that an intern is covered by WSB-like insurance while participating in a work term.  If the intern is a paid employee, you must add the intern to your policy.  For interns in unpaid internships within the province of British Columbia, there is coverage through Vancouver Island University for Work Safe BC.

If an intern has an accident or experiences a lost-time injury at work, please report it immediately to the WSB and to the intern's Internship WIL faculty.

The student is a leader in his or her own professional and personal development. 

Specific expectations of a student during a WIL experience are:

  • Actively participate in the WIL process by developing learning goals and objectives.
  • Commit to taking initiative and following guidance from supervisor/mentor at the host organization and develop and put to use practice skills obtained, including where appropriate classroom learning.
  • Comply with the principles of confidentiality, policies and procedures and hours of work.
  • Seek out information regarding any specific protocols or contractual agreements that may pertain to the specific workplace.
  • Demonstrate professional attitude, ethics and conduct when interacting with clients and employer’s personnel.
  • Remain in the WIL position for the required number of days and hours specified by the program and employers.
  • Report illness and/or absence to the employers as soon as possible.
  • Maintain contact with the work-integrated learning faculty, keeping them informed of any changes, concerns or issues that arise during the work term.
  • Arrange and participate in feedback sessions; mid-point assessment and and formal evaluation processes involving the employers and their work-integrated learning faculty.
  • Adhere to the rules and regulations of the employer workplace (i.e. dress, working hours, procedures).
  • Be clear about and express their learning goals in writing to the employers at the beginning of the work term; and formulate with the employers the work term record that describes what the student will do to accomplish the learning goals. 
  • Be responsible to their employers for their work assignments and work performance.

The work-integrated learning (WIL) faculty, through the Centre for Experiential Learning, is responsible for teaching the academic course(s) associated with WIL and supervising the work term process. It is the responsibility of the WIL faculty to:

  • Meet with and review the student’s learning needs and interests.
  • Engage in community development practices; recruit and encourage organizations to become employers, acquire job postings, engage in networking events and professional development and align with appropriate associations.
  • Provide students with information regarding employers, expectations and outline the work term process.
  • Ensure that both student and employers are informed of any specific work term protocols or contractual agreements that are site specific.
  • Provide the employers with information about the program, WIL procedures, expectations and evaluation process.
  • Be available to employers for clarification or consultation on the Internship process.
  • Ensure that the employer has confirmed the work term record.
  • Ensure that the learning goals and objectives developed by the student are defined and discussed with the employer. The learning plan should include learning objectives, tasks and responsibilities, and scheduled times for consultation.
  • Ensure students have the information related to general ethical practice, confidentiality and appropriate conduct prior to placement.
  • Seek to ensure that the student receives feedback and support through supervision and ongoing evaluation from the employers.
  • Be available to the employer and the student.
  • Ensure that evaluations of the student’s progress are received and that adequate feedback on the evaluation is provided to the student.
  • Intervene for the purpose of problem solving, conflict resolution or handling of any other concerns or issues that may arise during the work term.
  • Provide students with instruction in the work-integrated planning course to prepare them to successfully obtain a work-integrated learning experience.
  • Orient students to the learning goals, objectives, content, structure and process, evaluation and grading.
  • Facilitate the evaluation process and assign final grade.

Role of WIL faculty in the case of a challenging situation

Work-integrated learning (WIL) faculty are here to help in the event that there is a significant challenge or issue in the work term.  Please do not hesitate to contact the WIL faculty associated with the intern you have brought into your organization for advice, questions or support.

Mediation before resorting to termination

WIL faculty are responsible and available to mediate when the employer supervisor has attempted to coach an intern in, for example, changing their behavior to better fit the workplace, accomplish the tasks assigned to them or other management issues.  Many times the WIL faculty can have a direct conversation with the intern that you do not feel you can.  We appreciate the opportunity to act as mediator and to help you manage your intern before you resort to termination/dismissal.


If an intern should quit, please contact the WIL faculty immediately.

Employers Best Practices

Knowing what to expect from students

In order to ensure a sustained learning experience, employer supervisors must plan meaningful and challenging work assignments.  It is important for both the supervisor and the student to clearly understand the learning objectives in order to have a positive experience.   Students will be required to complete assignments as part of their WIL experience. 

Although there is no employer’s expectation regarding involvement with student assignments, supporting the student’s learning enhances their ability to connect the academic and work experience components more easily.

Problems may arise with both the employer and student when expectations are not clear.  Since a negative experience can tarnish both the individual’s perception and the company’s program, it is important to manage and communicate prior to and throughout the work term.

It is important to remember that students in a new workplace can often be going through a number of emotions such as, anxiety, unrealistic expectations, fear, and nervousness.  As an employer supervisor, you can effectively address these by being inclusive, communicative and by taking the time to understand the student’s background and goals.

Supervisor Best Practices

Rather than have the student spend time on low-value tasks, focus on providing opportunities related to the student’s individual learning plan that apply directly and meaningfully to the work of the organization.

Read our Onboarding information page for helpful tips on successfully onboarding your student and a handy printable onboarding checklist.

Employers often report that they experienced significant learning from the coaching process.  By making time to mentor and coach on an ongoing basis, both the student and the mentor will get the most out of the experience. 

Stimulate growth by progressively adding responsibilities, providing feedback and encouraging independent thoughts. Some factors necessary for effective partnership:

  • Understanding student’s individual needs, career plans and learning goals
  • Promoting a positive outlook of the upcoming term tempered with realistic expectations
  • Sharing knowledge and experience with the student through supportive communication and active listening

Students are receptive to feedback that will improve their performance as a growing professional. Students view their supervisor as a mentor who will give them direction and help them succeed in the professional environment.  Employer supervisors are encouraged to structure feedback so students recognize this as valuable, actionable information and understand all feedback is relevant.

Informal feedback is sometimes not perceived by the student as feedback. The more casual the feedback the less students tend to recognize it as feedback. Feedback can come from a variety of sources. The employer supervisor should initiate feedback. Peers, team members or other departments may also offer feedback.  When using informal feedback be clear with your intent. The more direct, the more likely the student will perceive this to be an area of focus. Positive feedback should be given freely. Areas of growth should be presented in a private setting where the student is not embarrassed. Feedback should be delivered as often as possible to encourage the student to continue to develop.

Formal feedback should be a prepared and delivered in a private meeting – for example, to discuss strengths and areas for growth. It should be designed so the supervisor achieves his desired objective. For example: What do you want to tell this student and why? Present positive feedback first and then discuss areas for growth. End the discussion with positive reinforcement. Students should have clear and measurable objectives of areas for growth that need to be addressed. Use specific examples of student behavior whenever possible so students have a clear picture of what needs improvement.

Find ways to make students feel that their work is important and that they are critical to the success of the team.  One way to achieve this is to give each student a certain amount of leadership over their work. By giving the students freedom to manage their own individual projects, they are able to lead their interaction with others. Asking questions or for advice develops skills in team-work and creates a stronger personal connection with the team. Providing business cards, personal business email addresses, and giving access to various backend systems can help reinforce this.

Providing compensation for student work promotes a stronger sense of commitment for both the mentor and the student and leads to better outcomes on both sides. Cooperative Education programs require compensation. Internship opportunities have some flexibility; can range from salary or wages to stipends or in-kind payments, such as paying for transportation and lunches.  Compensation is mandatory to cover any work related costs associated with the students work term.  

Brainstorming with students can help you and your team learn and provide a fresh perspective.  Ask for their input and ask them why they think the way they do.

When a student does not know how to do something, it is encouraged that students are encouraged to approach with several ideas and find the solution(s). In some cases, asking the student to research possible solutions and then come to the next meeting prepared to present their findings, provides students with invaluable opportunity to develop professionally.

It is important to publicize the students work term within your organization, including senior management, potential mentors within the area and supervisors. Wide range support across the organization helps establish accountability to students and demonstrates that senior managers are supportive of the program.