The first question my boss asked me when I suggested we start an intern program was “What’s in it for us?” Fortunately I had done my homework and read the “instruction book” that a college placement office had e-mailed me: Starting and Maintaining a Quality Internship Program, compiled and edited by Michael True, director, Internship Center, Messiah College, Grantham, PA 17027; revised edition by MACIC (Milwaukee Area Internship Consortium 5/03), sponsored by www.tccp.org, Pittsburgh Technology Council and Messiah College.
It helped that our company was at that time growing rapidly and that he was looking for less expensive ways to recruit qualified employees. Among the benefits an employer enjoys from a well organized internship program are:
• Year-round source of highly motivated pre-professionals
• Students bring new perspectives to old problems
• Visibility of your organization is increased on campus and within your community
• Quality candidates for temporary or seasonal positions and projects
• Freedom for professional staff to pursue more creative projects
• Flexible, cost-effective workforce not requiring a long-term employer commitment
• Proven, cost-effective way to recruit and evaluate potential employees
Like many companies, we had a lot of projects that we never quite had the time to complete. Our list included finding a way to fit more cars in our parking lot, reorganizing our engineering files, inventorying gear cutting tools, converting CAD drawings to a different format, and improving material flow through the plant. All worthwhile projects that never got near the top of our priority lists. I’m sure we could have come up with even more projects had we asked the accounting, purchasing, or sales departments, but my list was sufficient to get an approval to hire a couple of engineering students for the summer months. Note I said “hire,” as we felt it was unfair to ask unpaid volunteers to perform “real work.” With input from the University’s internship advisor, we set an hourly rate based upon year in school and had plenty of well-qualified candidates to choose from. By the end of the summer our project backlog was eliminated, but my co-workers were already debating “what we should have the kids do next summer.”
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