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Ask Signs of the Times

Hiring Interns: What Sign Companies Need to Know

Compensation and liability are discussed in this month’s “Ask Signs of the Times.”




Are sign companies offering paid or unpaid internships? Are the interns allowed to participate in sign production (by law) or are they only allowed to observe?

First, we need to discuss the type of internships offered, as in, is the internship through an official program run by an institution, college or high school? If so, the school would have some guidelines as to what would be required of the company hosting the internship. If it’s not “official” — not done as part of a program or for a school course or credit — then no such requirements would be part of the internship and the sign company could run it as the company sees fit (in accordance with state labor laws, of course).

Another aspect involves pay. Some schools sponsoring internships may require pay for their interns; for others pay may be optional. Unpaid internships are obviously easier on overall expenses and some career seekers might be willing to work just for the exposure, experience or training. In these cases, it’s difficult to imagine such an internship lasting very long, or involving a lot of hours per week. If you can afford to pay, logic suggests you’re more likely to attract a motivated intern and to have the intern work more hours per week.

We’re unaware of internships that prevent participation in sign production, though some school programs may forbid it. More likely, common sense applies here that neither the school nor the sign company (nor the intern!) would want the intern doing any kind of production involving the risk of damage to sign products, the shop or, most importantly, injury to the intern or anyone else. So, no high-rise sign installs during the first week …

Signs of the Times has hosted interns for several years and one is working with us now. We’ve always found that we receive much more from our interns than we invest (in terms of training and, in truth, compensation — just in case you’re worried about that) and that the experience has always been rewarding both for the intern and for our company.

How many sign companies still provide hand-lettered, painted signs?

According to our recent 2022 State of the Industry Survey, 10% of the 300-plus respondents stated they use “hand painting” as a method in creating signs (see ST Mid-March 2022, page 20). For comparison, the figure from the previous surveys taken between 2018 and 2020 was 9% each year, so one out of every 10 or 11 sign companies offering hand lettering seems to have remained pretty consistent the last several years.

What’s the best printer on the market?

That sounds like a great survey question for our Brain Squad and you know we love to seek out, collect and report this kind of information! However, we don’t have any survey data to try to answer this particular question at the moment, and of course, there are many different types of printers for many different purposes. If you can hold tight for one more month, we will be covering the latest printers from several manufacturers and for a range of applications — as well as our Brain Squad’s favorite signmaking tools and equipment in our July issue. Stay tuned!


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