Creating Value Out of an Internship

Posted: April 6, 2015 by Bill Cunningham in Culture, People

bill-cunningham-sc“An apprenticeship is the most logical way to success. The only alternative is overnight stardom, but I can’t give you a formula for that.”            — Chet Atkins

Interns will begin to descend upon companies in just a few weeks and many companies are ready and many may not be. We just launched an organized internship program this year rather than have individual managers hire their own interns. First, we interviewed all of the managers who would have potential internship slots: Operations, Marketing, Quality Assurance, HR, Safety and Supply Chain. The intern program wants to achieve these three goals:

  1. Provide a meaningful work experience to give insight into our business and our industry so that the intern may decided to join us fulltime after graduation
  2. By providing a meaningful work experience, we hope to get value out of the internship by the work that gets completed, but also innovative ideas that will be generated by a fresh set of eyes on our business.
  3. Transform the interns into ambassadors for our company when they return to campus to recruit new management talent for the future. Because we are a B2B company, our profile is not on a lot of college student’s radars when they are looking for a career – yet we have many opportunities in marketing, supply chain and operations.

The criteria for getting an intern position was to create project based work that is meaningful work. Our mantra was no coffee or copies (we make our own coffee and copies!) There were several departments that did not have the capacity to take an intern this year, so we did not create a position there. After creating about a dozen well crafted positions, we connected with the right people at 8 universities in the region and posted the jobs. When we received 150+ responses, we conducted phone interviews and then matched the best candidates with positions for a second interview with the department and the intern program coordinator. After the second interviews were completed, offers were made to the candidates.

The interns will spend 35 hours working for their “Day Job,” and invest 5 hours in personal and professional development. The development includes a 2 day onboarding workshop where the Chairman will kick off the program and learn about our business and industry. Since some of the interns will be working in offices, we will tour the two of our manufacturing plants to gain an understanding of what drives our business. Then every Monday afternoon the interns will meet at various plant locations to discuss their experiences, meet with an executive who will present their side of the business and discuss potential innovations. Each intern will be connected to a mentor at their location who is not their manager and not in their department. With these connections, they will get to learn about our entire business.

By investing time upfront in your intern program, you will make it easy for managers to get a return on their interns, achieve meaningful results and have a “twelve-week interview” to determine if they would be a good fit. And if they are a good fit, you have twelve weeks to persuade them to join the company upon graduation.

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