Boost your staffing by training your interns from day one to become some of your best employees.
Each career fair season, we are not just forecasting how many interns we need for the upcoming summer, we are looking a year down the road at how many engineers-in-training we need to hire. We then approach our internship recruitment and selection process with a different mindset of who has the drive, skills, and cultural fit to be successful at F&V long-term.
Our leaders focus on mentoring and developing the future engineers from day one of their internships. Even if they choose another path after graduating, we believe the impact of our relationships – guidance, advice, and mentoring – may bring them back to F&V someday.
There’s no secret sauce to developing interns into valuable employees, but what we do guarantees that our new hires have the skill set our company needs and desires. We try our best to give interns a glimpse into broader business challenges and watch them grow through meaningful experiences and relationships. It’s relationships and guided supervision that really count.
Ideally, we look for a perfect match and try to pair an intern with a senior “buddy,” a young- to mid-level engineer. The mid-level staffer, closer in age and not that far removed from an internship themselves, speaks the same language and can relate better. That connection can be critical in bringing an intern up to speed on your company’s expectations and needs.
Having an EIT who mentors and keeps the intern productive also takes some of the pressure off upper-level project managers and senior engineers. Our team members, particularly EITs, also grow through teaching the interns and passing on their knowledge and experience; it’s a long-term recipe for success.
A key to successfully training interns is offering them diverse experiences. It’s difficult at times but worth the investment. Last summer, one of our project managers and his EIT, who was also mentoring, took interns from other groups to a site development project. This was an overhead investment of time, but being purposeful and having them experience other types of engineering was priceless.
Each group in our engineering firm has their own way of developing young talent, but the overriding goal is to give them real-world tasks, create a sense of teamwork, and acclimate them to the overall process so they can see the bigger picture. In return, interns have given us some good ideas and a fresh look at our day-to-day business and procedures.
Our group leaders let the mentors guide the interns’ day-to-day assignments but stay connected enough to make sure that the intern is being tested and that diversity of tasks and experiences is being achieved.
At F&V, we’ve discovered that leaving interns with a good first impression is critical. It starts by showcasing the possibilities available to them and highlighting the value their unique perspectives and technical knowledge bring to our team.
As the HR director, I am confident in our value proposition, and before formally extending full-time offers to our interns, we encourage them before graduation to explore their options and to let us know when they are ready to receive an offer.
Interns who receive an excellent work experience gain a competitive edge when seeking full-time work. Those same interns, if they’re treated with respect and if they work at a company with an excellent culture, are also likely to come back as full-time staff. When they do, it’s a win-win.
Having an intern become your newest hire also saves time and money. You don’t have to go through the prolonged onboarding and training period that comes with a conventional new hire, and you don’t have to deal with the concern of
hiring and developing an unknown person. Your former intern starts day one focused and ready to complete assignments from the get-go because of their hands-on experience and their knowledge of the company’s processes, values, and culture.
Paul David, PHR, SHRM-CP, is the human resources director at Fleis & VandenBrink. Contact him at email@example.com.