By Bill Rowan
An ongoing challenge in our business is attracting and recruiting the younger generation into the material handling industry. And right now, there are terrific opportunities to attract younger talent to our dealerships.
A significant percentage of college graduates still are not finding employment. Distributors need to take this opportunity to educate these college graduates about the material handling industry and to sell these graduates on the opportunities available in our industry. The best time to start this education and sales process is while these students are still in school and investigating what opportunities may be out there for them after graduation.
There are many colleges and universities in our respective territories which provide recruiting opportunities for our dealerships. These colleges and universities are anxious to work with businesses to place their graduates. Investigate the programs within these institutions that best fit the opportunities within your dealership. Some of the programs that fit our industry include supply chain management, industrial distribution, logistics, marketing and sales.
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The Internet makes researching any of these programs convenient. After you identify the fields of study that match your needs, contact the career center at that campus. Explain what you are looking for, and ask for a contact within the department you have identified. You will find both the career centers and the individual departments easy to work with and anxious to be of assistance. All programs are ultimately judged by the percentage of graduates they place in real world jobs. The career center can assist you in participating in job fairs and posting job opportunities.
Reach out to the department with the program that you have identified as the best fit. Try to talk with one or more people within the department to learn more about the program. Your goal is to find a champion within the department that will assist you in the recruiting process
Again, in most cases, you will find the faculty and staff very accessible and amenable to assist you in this process. Through the department you can also post job opportunities for the students in that specific program. Your champion might also make announcements in his class or send an e-mail out to all students in the program making them aware of your opportunity. The department can also assist in coordinating and setting up on campus interviews. In most cases the schools will provide you with a meeting room in which you can conduct the interviews.
An excellent way to ensure the best results in hiring young talent is a summer internship program. A well designed internship program provides value for the dealership and value for the intern. The interview process for the internship program should mirror the process for any employment opportunity in your company.
An internship program establishes your dealership on campus as a career choice. And the internship provides a great forum to qualify future long term employees. You actually get to see and observe the intern interact with the other employees in the company. At the same time, the intern can be working on a project that needs to be completed and can guarantee a quick return on your investment.
The internship should be well thought out to be of maximum benefit to your company and to the intern. A rotational experience, where the intern spends some time in each department of your dealership, offers the greatest value and experience to the intern. Keep in mind that the goal of the intern is to learn as much about your company and our industry to determine if they would like to pursue a career in the material handling industry. Throughout the internship, take every opportunity to get the student excited about our industry and your company.
After rotating through each department, the student can spend the remainder of the internship in the department where they might ultimately be offered a position. In addition, it is beneficial to assign the intern an on-going project that they can work on throughout the program and that they can present to a management committee as a culmination to the internship.
The ideal end to an internship is that the student is a great fit for your company, excited about a career in the material handling industry and wants to join your company after graduation. That is not always the case. Maybe you decide the intern is not a good fit, or maybe the intern decides that this is not a good fit for them. Either way, a well-designed internship will provide a good return on your investment.
Bill Rowan is President of Sunbelt Industrial Trucks in Dallas/Fort Worth, where he oversees sales and operations of the Nissan, Doosan, Komatsu, Big Joe, TCM and Flexi forklift dealerships. Full Service Material Handling Dealership specializing in the sales, service and rental of forklift equipment.