Interns Can Supplement Your Workforce

Hiring interns is a low-risk opportunity to remain competitive.

My first job out of college as a “twenty-something” was working for a publisher selling advertising. It turned out to be a win for everyone. I was hired for not much more than minimum wage, but it provided me with a much-needed, valuable work experience, and my enthusiasm and eagerness paid off for my employer. I was promoted within a year.

Hiring a new graduate can be a positive experience for everyone, but a less risky and equally rewarding alternative to consider is an internship. When I attended college, internships and cooperative education programs weren't on anyone's radar screens. Today, many college students are required to participate in internships to earn their degrees.

Interns are a good choice for supplementing your workforce. When times are tough, and employers are forced to downsize, interns can provide a viable and affordable alternative. Hiring an intern is an excellent way to fill a much-needed position, often at no cost to the employer. Students looking for hands-on experience will appreciate the opportunity, making this a win for both employee and employer. Hiring an intern also provides the employer with a first look at a potential permanent employee, with little risk other than perhaps more supervision at the front end.

So, where do you find interns? One place to start is the Gateway Web site at www.mheda.org/gateway. Students who have posted on this site through the resume bank are specifically interested in the material handling industry and can be searched by specialty area of interest and geographic location. You can view resumes and contact students directly. The Gateway Web site also provides a way to attract new talent to the material handling industry, which will ultimately support industry growth and continuous improvement.

Another way to connect with students is for employers to post in the “find/post jobs” section. Here, an employer can indicate its interest in hiring interns or full-time employees. Schools are often looking for professionals to provide guest lectures and facilitate site visits to customer applications. This is a long-term, relationship-building opportunity. All postings for students and employers are free of charge.

Not sure how to structure an internship? To get you started, Mike Ensby, a former professor at Clarkson University, has posted an article on the Gateway Web site titled, “What is an Internship/Co-op?” You can also contact schools in your local area and ask them for guidance.

It's imperative that you have a structured plan in place for the students you hire. Ensby offers some valuable advice: “One of the most important things to do beforehand is to develop a defined set of expectations for the student, including a formalized training program. Make clear who the supervisor is, who the back-ups are if that person is not available and explicit instructions as to what the student's duties will be.”

Internships can be valuable learning tools for students and viable employment options for companies. Just be sure to do your homework first.

Liz Richards is executive vice president of MHEDA. Contact her at lrichards@mheda.org.

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