I've interned a lot, and as someone who's been there, it's up to the students to make the most of their experience. But I'm so glad that this subject has gotten highlighted in recent years, because there is so much abuse in the system.
If you are going to hire unpaid interns, make sure you go through a school. They will give you the legal guidelines and set it up so that the student at least gets credit. Go through your local b-school or computer science college or whatever it is you need.
These days an internship is a hand holding experience where you must provide something of value to students other than "hey, work for me and gain experience!" Most internships I did involved extremely mundane office duties; I was lucky if I got to sit in on important/creative meetings. The onus was COMPLETELY on me to remember important names in the Rolodex and then use that to my advantage to charm my way into a perm job.
If you are going to provide something of value, you need to offer the following:
- Some sort of flat stipend to at least cover transportation expenses (accounting for both gas and mileage)
- Food. Free. Every day.
- Valuable insight into how your business works -- not just making them fetch coffee or do rote/routine things every day. You must be there as a mentor more than a boss!!!
- School credit !!!
- An apprenticeship type situation where the student can then start working for you part or full-time after, say, a semester.
My 2 cents.