Mark White, owner of Kitchen Encounters, is a strong advocate of the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA) intern program.

“Interns come with an open mind. They are ready to learn. It’s a great way to bring people into the business,” says the Annapolis, Md., designer.

“Young people coming through school are the future of our profession,” says Mary Jo Peterson, principal of Mary Jo Peterson Inc., in Brookfield, Conn. “We owe it to the profession, but we also get a benefit.”

Skills to Offer

White has posted three intern positions in the last five years, and each time he has received good responses. “Most are in an interior design program at an endorsed school with a specialty or certification program for kitchen and bath design,” he says. “Usually they were looking ahead to a summer intern position or an employment position after graduation.”

Two former interns are now part of his staff, and White is hoping for the same with the company’s most recent intern, who graduates this month.

Peterson says that the endorsed programs provide formal training and discipline. She says interns have strong computer-aided drafting skills. Her intern, Terry McBride, helped integrate AutoCAD in architect communication, and computerized the company’s administrative tasks.

Making the Cut

Peterson says that designers should choose interns as they would a full-time employee. After her internship, McBride worked for Peterson for more than 10 years.

White asks his interns to prepare drawings, and as they gain knowledge about products and design, to work on specifications for cabinetry, prepare orders for the suppliers, and document client contracts. He also asks them to assist the office staff “so they can get a well-rounded experience.”

White offers paid internships. “Someone is delivering value to us, even though we are teaching them a lot. It’s a fair balance to offer pay,” he says. White also suggests being flexible with hours, as many interns are still in school.

Internship Survey

The intern program, launched by the NKBA in October 2007, is open only to member firms. The association asks members to share their expertise with students who are studying at the 52 accredited schools across the U.S. Students must complete a 160-hour internship to receive NKBA recognition for completing an accredited program. More than 75 companies have listed an internship opportunity on the association’s website. According to a recent survey:

  • 90% of the internship providers that filled their position found the internship positive for their business and would recommend the program to other members.
  • All of the firms indicated they would host an intern again.
  • Those companies that offered a paid position were more likely to fill the position, with nearly two-thirds of respondents doing so, compared with less than one-third for those companies that didn’t offer financial compensation. Payment ranged from $7 to $15 per hour, with an average of $11 per hour.
  • In addition to offering compensation, another way to land a good intern is to post an internship in January, when most students begin looking for summer internships.
  • Of the students offered an internship position, four out of five accepted the offer.

For more information about the program, visit