This quarter’s question was proposed by MHEDA’s Industry Advocacy Committee, which would like to know: “How are internships and cooperative education opportunities structured in your organization, and what value have you found?”
Duncan Murphy: We find that there is no single-defined version of an internship. The three variations we see are: (1) student working for our business in a meaningful role, (2) a project-based commitment such as a market research study that might include several students, and (3) an instructor who spends time learning about our operation to drive curriculum for his or her school or to determine the potential for student internships. The third option is the shortest in length.
We’ve found that we must have a specific job description that addresses, at a minimum: whether the job is paid or unpaid, duration, work schedule, student goals and company goals. Once we define the details, they are confirmed by the student and their supervisor.
The direct return to our company begins with community service and extends to industry awareness. Usually, too, such a program will provide some direct returns to our company. All three are of great value, though the first two are more intrinsic.
Chuck Frank: We have been using a co-op program for the last 20 years. The key to success is aligning with a first- or second-term student, which allows several terms for you to observe their development, commitment, work ethic, desire to learn our industry and ability to work with current team members. In turn, the student is able to form their own opinion on whether he or she would like to apply for a position upon graduation. The bottom line is, we want to make sure they fit our culture and we complement their personal and professional goals.
Our co-ops have traditionally reported to one of our application engineers and to our IT Manager. For the first term, we have the student float throughout different departments to get a better pulse for what we do. During the second term, we keep them focused on their primary task, whether that’s AutoCAD layouts, low-level estimating, internal IT help desk requests or something else. By the third term, we expect them to assist in designing solutions, estimating projects (including installation services), developing approval documentation, ordering equipment, making site visits to oversee the work and assembling as-built documentation. If they are proficient in providing these services, we feel they will be an asset to our organization, and we will continue our discussions on the potential of having them join our team.
Scott Hennie: We have worked with schools in the past, when necessary, to bring in students either during the summer months or during the school year. Most of the time, we have plenty of résumés from students who are referred internally by various people. We greatly value the work of our interns, as well as those who have come in via a co-op program, such as technicians from Eastland Career Center and clerical staff from Hamilton Township High School. Many of our current employees have come out of one of those types of programs, so we tend to try to use these programs as the groundwork for a career with Hy-Tek.
Scott Lee: We don’t have a formal intern program at Conveyor Solutions. However, we’ve had an intern with us in each of the last three years. That person’s responsibilities include AutoCAD drawings, data entry and internal projects. The intern arrives at the beginning of summer with a lot of energy and a can-do attitude eager to share any new tools of processes learned during the previous semester. It’s a great way to introduce potential candidates to our industry without making any formal commitments.
Jerry Weidmann: Our largest recruitment challenge is maintaining sufficient staffing levels for our skilled repair technicians and, in particular, strategically ensuring that we have a sufficient flow of recruits to replace those repair techs we lose to retirement. In the next five to ten years, as the Baby Boomers retire, we will need to find a good number of replacements. This is critical to our ability to maintain a high level of service to our customers.
We are fortunate because we have a couple of great technical colleges in our area. Through ongoing contact, we have developed solid relationships with these colleges and are on their advisory committees to help develop course curriculum. In addition, we are invited to speak to students, allowing us to get our name and industry out in front of them. When they graduate, they contact us to talk about a career with our company. We’ve been able to plan for bringing in a set number of new recruits each semester now, and this a great way to develop the next generation of repair technicians.