In the Spring of 2012, when software engineering student Kevin Luty began his search for an internship the summer after his junior year, his ultimate goal was to gain experience that would not only look good on his resume, but also would help him land a job after graduation.
Little did he know that the time he would spend developing and testing software for material-handling products while gaining real-world work experience at Magnetek, Inc. that summer would lead to bigger things.
With nearly 13% of U.S. workers still considered to be unemployed or underemployed*, many of today’s college students are actively seeking opportunities to better prepare themselves as they transition into the workforce.
The employment challenges facing the class of 2014 represent a unique opportunity for companies that are willing to invest both time and resources into the future of their industry. In fact, companies today have an opportunity to offer students a meaningful work experience in return for access to a readily available source of knowledge in terms of new technologies and the most recent schools of thought.
Even if your goal is simply to recruit new job candidates, think of college internship programs as a three-month-long interview where at the end of the process you’ll have great insight into the interviewees’/interns’ level of knowledge, work ethic, and abilities. All in all, internship programs can provide companies, especially small to mid-sized businesses, with a powerful tool that can be used to help find and retain quality employees.
For more than two decades, Wisconsin-based Magnetek, Inc. has provided engineering internship opportunities for college students in the Wisconsin region and beyond. Magnetek manufactures and markets digital power and motion control systems for material handling, fluid power, people-moving, and mining applications. The company is a leader in wireless control products for mobile hydraulic applications. Since the program’s inception, the company’s approach to creating relevant internship opportunities has focused on developing real-world work opportunities that provide students with job-specific work experience in the development, product management, buyer-planner, and production engineering fields.
“Our program offers only as many internships each year as are deemed vital by our business leaders,” said Caitie Bowers, a member of Magnetek’s human resource team who works directly with the company’s internship program. “We are focused on providing work experiences that put the students into a real-world work environment and are designed to benefit both the student and our organization. It’s a win-win situation for everyone.”
According to Magnetek’s internship program leaders, the first steps in developing an effective internship program are to evaluate your business needs and resources, devote adequate time and resources during the planning process, and to think long range.
“Our internship program exposes our company and our products to students and potential employees who may not have heard of us before,” said Guy Moore, a development director at Magnetek. “The students bring a lot of enthusiasm, new ideas, and concepts they have learned through their coursework. During our internship process, they are partnered with senior engineers and given a chance to get involved in project planning and testing that gives them first-hand experience and insight into how the product development process works in a professional environment. In fact, in some cases, our interns continue working part time for us even after the initial internship has been completed.”
In order to provide a high-quality internship experience, it’s important that companies, from the top down, embrace the internship concept and invest adequate time and resources to guarantee that the program benefits both the student and the company. It’s also important to develop a well-crafted implementation plan so that interns who will be trusted with varying degrees of responsibility have a clear understanding of the program’s expectations and receive adequate training from day one.
“The key to having a mutually successful internship program is having employees and business leaders who are ready and willing to mentor the interns and create a challenging internship experience,” said Bowers. “When managed successfully, internship programs offer a way to access willing workers who can assist in getting projects completed, provide potential employees with valid work experience, and gain new insight into the most up-to-date programs and processes being taught at the university level.”
For Kevin Luty, the opportunity that Magnetek’s internship program delivered—including the chance to develop software that he could immediately see adding value to actual products in the market—provided more than just experience he could add to his LinkedIn profile. It gave him the opportunity to achieve his ultimate goal upon graduation: transforming his internship experience into a full-time job at Magnetek.