Frequently Asked Questions for Host Companies

What is the Internship Challenge?

The Internship Challenge is a workforce development program focused on enhancing the talent pipeline for Massachusetts companies engaged in the life sciences. The Massachusetts Life Sciences Center (MLSC) facilitates the placement of students and recent graduates who are considering career opportunities in the life sciences in paid internships across the state throughout the year. Consistent with the MLSC’s role as a catalyst in growing the talent needed by the life sciences industry, the Internship Challenge is designed to create hundreds of new internship opportunities each year by enabling small businesses to hire paid interns. The MLSC reimburses eligible companies for intern wages.

What are the program’s objectives?

The program seeks to build a robust and diverse workforce pipeline for the state’s life science industry by:

  • creating new paid internship opportunities that may not have otherwise existed by enabling small companies to host interns;
  • providing college students with hands-on real-world experience and direct exposure to the Massachusetts life sciences ecosystem;
  • helping students build a professional network in the life sciences industry and gain relevant work experience needed to enter the workforce;
  • connecting companies with diverse talent and incentivize them to hire underrepresented/underserved students;
  • supporting the growth of smaller life sciences companies by providing/subsidizing human capital and allowing them to “test-drive” future employees; and
  • encouraging careers in life sciences and help retain talent in Massachusetts.

How does the program work?

Students or recent graduates that are looking for an internship in the life sciences industry will need to first complete an online application, which includes their resume and a cover letter. Applications are accepted year‐round but will expire after six months if not updated.

Representatives from companies looking to host interns submit an online application, and once approved, are given access to a searchable database of applications. They review applications, interview candidates, and select interns with the qualifications that are most suited to their needs. Internships can be part or full time and can take place throughout the Program Year, which runs from May 1 through April 30.

The MLSC will reimburse eligible companies for pay rates of up to $17 per hour for a total reimbursement of no more than $8,160 per intern at the conclusion of the internship.

What are the eligibility requirements for companies to participate in the program?

Companies will be required to meet the following eligibility requirements:

  1. Must be located in Massachusetts and internships must take place in Massachusetts. Companies are required to be registered to do business in Massachusetts and must submit to MLSC Certificates of Good Standing from both the MA Department of Revenue and the MA Secretary of the Commonwealth (click on links to request). Companies will also need to provide MLSC with a signed copy of their Form W-9.
  2. Must be small businesses (100 or fewer employees in MA; 250 or fewer worldwide). Larger companies, subsidiaries of larger companies, and research institutions are welcome to participate in the program; however their internships would not be subsidized.
  3. Must be life sciences companies or companies that provide services to the life sciences industry. “Life sciences” is defined as: “advanced and applied sciences that expand the understanding of human physiology and have the potential to lead to medical advances or therapeutic applications,” – Massachusetts General Laws (MGL), chapter 23I, section 2.
  4. Must offer interns a hands-on learning experience and at least one mentor that directly oversees the internship.  

Please Note:

  • Multiple companies that are “Related Parties” (having any person or entity directly or indirectly controlling, controlled by or under common control) can participate, however will be limited to the funding available for one company. If your company is related to another company registered for this program, please notify us immediately.
  • Companies cannot hire an intern who is the spouse, child, grandchild, sibling, niece, nephew, or spouse of a child, grandchild, sibling, niece, or nephew of any employee of the company.

How does a company register to participate?

Companies interested in hosting interns through this program should first complete the online registration form and proceed to fill out the Company Application. As part of this application, companies are required to upload a recently issued Certificate of Good Standing from the MA Secretary of the Commonwealth AND a Certificate of Good Standing from the MA Department of Revenue.

MLSC staff will review registration requests to determine eligibility and reply with detailed instructions if approved.

What is the process for reviewing applications?

Companies approved by the MLSC has prospective host companies will be provided access to a robust database of intern applications. The review of candidates is done exclusively by host companies and they will reach out directly to candidates with the qualifications that are most suited to their needs. The MLSC will provide final approval to extend an offer to the intern, contingent upon verification of the applicant’s eligibility and the availability of funds.

How many interns can a company hire?

Companies eligible to receive reimbursement from the MLSC may hire up to two subsidized interns each Program Year (which runs from May 1 through April 30). Companies have the option to hire up to two additional interns that are enrolled in a 2-year/Community College/Certificate program, or attend(ed) an Historically Black College or University (HBCU).

Can a new intern be hired to “replace” an intern that has left the position prematurely?

Yes, in the event that an intern works less than 50% of the hours initially agreed to, companies can hire a “follow-on” intern to work the remaining hours. The total reimbursement for both the original and follow-on interns is still capped at $8,160.

A candidate we would like to hire says they submitted an application but why can’t we find it in the database?

  1. The application must be completed to be available for company review. If they are “Incomplete” or in “Draft” status they cannot be seen by companies.
  2. Applications are not available to be seen by companies immediately. Their status must first be changed to “Approved” by MLSC staff. Once approved, the application is available for viewing by companies. Approval time typically takes less than one business day.

Once a request to extend an offer is made, how long does it take for MLSC to approve the request?

Offer requests are reviewed several times each week. Companies will be contacted via email in the event that a request cannot be approved. If a request is taking longer than one week to be approved or denied, please contact the MLSC staff to follow up.

Why can’t our intern accept the offer in the online portal?

Interns do not accept offers in the online portal. Companies must send the intern an offer letter directly. If/when the offer is accepted, the company must log back into the portal and change the intern’s status to “hired”. Doing so will automatically prompt companies to upload the signed offer letter and Agreement. Please see detailed instructions for selecting and hiring interns.

What are the company’s contractual obligations?

Companies hosting interns will be required to execute an Intern Sponsorship Agreement with the MLSC that sets forth funding requirements. Companies must attach executed intern offer letters to this Agreement as verification that the intern(s) has/have accepted the internship position(s). There is no explicit or implicit commitment on the part of any host company to provide future employment for any intern.

What is the difference between an Amendment and Agreement? When do I need one?

Only one Agreement is used per Program Year, and should identify the names of interns hired during the period. For each intern hired after the Agreement is executed, an Amendment is required to add the name(s) to the Agreement. The Agreement and Amendment templates are available for download within the application.

How much should we pay our interns?

The MLSC will reimburse companies up to $17 per intern, but companies are encouraged to pay higher rates if they are able to. For interns earning more than $17/hour, the reimbursement form will automatically calculate the hours at the maximum rate of $17/hour. Please note that beginning 5/1/22, interns must be paid at least $15 per hour (MA minimum wage as of 2023).

How are interns paid?

Interns are to be hired and paid directly by the host company. Any employed intern shall be treated as an employee of company (not a contractor or subcontractor) for compensation purposes and preferably paid through a third-party payroll service (e.g. ADP, Paychex, Intuit Payroll). If using an internal payroll system (e.g. QuickBooks) in which payroll is not processed by a third party, additional support in the form of signed weekly timesheets will be required. Companies are required to pay their interns at a frequency that is in accordance with Chapter 149, Section 148 of the Massachusetts General Laws, and include in each payment all applicable employment taxes in accordance with state and federal law. Please note that effective as of the 2020-21 Program Year (i.e. internships beginning on or after May 1, 2020). MLSC will only reimburse host companies for wages paid for hours worked and will no longer offer companies the option to request reimbursement for payroll taxes and payroll fees.

How does a company request reimbursement from the MLSC?

Upon completion of the internship(s), companies must submit (electronic copies via email are OK) to MLSC the following:

  1. Reimbursement Summary Form (template provided by MLSC) that reflects all hours worked during the internship period and calculates the amount reimbursable.  This form will serve as the invoice and MUST be completed electronically and hand-signed by a representative of the company.
  2. Proof of payment to the interns (e.g. copies of pay checks, pay stubs, earnings statements).
  3.  A signed and dated W-9 tax form.

The MLSC will reimburse the company by electronic fund transfer within 20 business days of receipt of all above-mentioned supporting documentation.

A more detailed description of reimbursement requirements can be downloaded here.

If our company already submitted a reimbursement request for our first intern before deciding to hire a second intern, should we resubmit the same form (including first intern’s information) and add the second intern?

If internships are being reimbursed at different times, please submit a new reimbursement request with only the name of the intern for which you are seeking reimbursement.

Our intern will not conclude the internship until the next Program Year (after April 30). What do we do?

Companies must request reimbursement for all hours worked through April 30th. If the intern is eligible for the following Program Year, beginning on May 1, he or she can be “re-hired” under a new Agreement for the new year. If the hours worked in the second year are less than half the allotted amount, you may hire another intern to work the remaining hours. Interns and companies must submit separate applications for each Program Year and the intern must be re-selected in the online portal (Program Year on the application numbers must match).

Is the Internship Challenge still operating during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Yes, we are continuing to run the program and interns are permitted to work remotely during the pandemic.