Building an Intern Program that Really Works!
I can attest to the value of Disher’s intern program because I was one not too long ago! During the summer of my junior collegiate year, I became a Disher intern. I thought an internship would consist of not getting paid, retrieving coffee for coworkers, cleaning the office, organizing files, and doing other tasks that didn’t require critical thought. Instead, I learned everything crucial to the recruiting process: how to use Outlook, write job descriptions, work with an applicant tracking system, search for candidates online, and conduct interviews. After a few short weeks, I realized an important thing: I’ve only been getting my own coffee this whole time! Today I am employed as a Talent Engineer at Disher and loving it!
Disher hosts a variety of interns and co-op students who work during the summer or throughout the year. An impressive group is recruited year-after-year by attending select university events, such as career fairs, as often as possible. Disher interns gain hands-on experience and have the opportunity to work alongside multi-talented experts. They are not just making coffee and running copies, they have real work to do. This is the key. Intern coaches/mentors provide tools, training, and legitimate projects that push students out of their comfort zone and encourage learning. Interns are given the chance to work independently or on teams with other students and full-time employees.
From my perspective, there are several factors that make Disher’s intern program successful.
BUILDING AN INTERNSHIP/CO-OP PROGRAM THAT WORKS
+ Get out There! Take the time to find quality interns—attend targeted university career fairs and other recruiting events. Interview boatloads of candidates. Not only will you find potential interns, you will build awareness of your company.
+ Be Selective! Choose an intern as if you were selecting a full-time employee because they might become one someday.
+ Be Prepared! Gather input from your staff regarding realistic needs/projects for interns, and the capacity of your full-time employees to mentor them. Put together a plan regarding the amount of work per intern needed and the quantity of interns per mentor. Train your employees on coaching and mentoring methods.
+ Invest the Time! Coaches and mentors must be prepared to spend a significant amount of time with their interns. The accumulation of training, coaching, and impromptu meetings with interns will be significant. Interns need regular checks and feedback. Students are hungry to learn, so challenge them! The level of challenge and responsibility in an intern’s work should increase as they progress.
+ Mix it up! Facilitate variety in the projects, departments, products, and people the interns will work with. This encourages valuable networking connections which students could leverage in the future.
+ Improve! The participants and organizers of your internship program should meet to generate ideas on how to improve the program. Include the interns in the conversation for valuable and genuine feedback.
The proof of how well your intern/co-op program works can be gleaned from the interns themselves. Below are just a few comments from this year’s class of interns.
“One of my goals in interning at Disher was to learn more about the electrical side of engineering, since I come primarily from a software background. I’m definitely able to accomplish that here. It’s challenging to keep up with the lingo and methods used by the seasoned engineers, but this is an awesome chance to get real-world experience that can’t be taught in the classroom.”
– Ariel Magyar, Grand Valley State University Computer Engineering Intern
“As an intern working alongside brilliant engineers and designers in a fast-paced environment, my skills and capabilities expand every single day. I’m joining the team after college as I start my career because I expect my professional growth to only accelerate at Disher.”
– Martin Hewitt, Northwestern University Product Development Engineering Co-op Student
“Interns get a very unique work experience here at Disher. The variety of tasks we get from working in multiple industries gives us a chance to explore our strengths and passions.”
– Mu-Hua Cheng, University of Michigan Mechanical Engineering Intern
“I really enjoy juggling multiple projects at once because it exposes me to a variety of problems and scenarios, allowing me to grow as a person and expand my breadth of knowledge. It’s an opportunity for me to find out what things I like and don’t like.”
– Ross Newland, Hope College Mechanical Engineering Intern
Written By: Allison Ives – Talent Engineer |
Allison is a graduate from Grand Valley State University, with studies in Public Administration, Business, and Public Relations & Advertising. She began with Disher as an intern, and now recruits for internal and external positions as a part of the Talent Attraction Team. Allison also loves continuing to learn through her passions in painting, playing music, and traveling.