How to Create a Seamless Pipeline of Talent Through Internship Programs
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the April Jobs Report stated that 266,000 jobs were added with little to no change in the unemployment rate of 6.1%. Employers across the country are screaming for employees.
Growing your own employees through internships is a solution to the current problem. An internship program is a short-term work-based learning experience to get some entry-level exposure to a particular industry. Internships vary by company and by the training institution. Some are paid internships while others are not. Some colleges require an internship to graduate, while others offer an internship class for credit. There are also private companies that provide internships to students where students pay the private company to coordinate the opportunity. Ideally, students spend their time working on relevant projects, experiencing the culture of the organization and the workflow processes, making industry connections, and developing both technical skills and soft skills.
Internships are important and benefit both the employer and intern. The intern has the opportunity to apply what they learned and work side by side with experts in the field. Sometimes, the education program is very broad and an internship provides the opportunity to see if s/he likes the job. It also provides an opportunity for interns to experience the culture of the company to see if it is a good fit.
Employers also benefit. The company has the opportunity to assess the intern’s culture fit, technical and soft skills, as well as work habits. The program also allows the employer to groom candidates for full-time employment positions within their company.
Develop a strategic foundation for your internship program by identifying the program goals. Many internship programs are poorly thought out and don’t help interns to grow. Think about the purpose. Do you want to create a seamless pipeline of potential employees, develop a public service to pay students who need income, give back to the community, or just partner with training institutions? For the sake of this blog, we will focus on structuring a program that will convert interns to employees and retain them.
Next, consider the interns you will recruit. What role(s) in your organization are the hardest to find, hire, and retain? These are the positions you want to grow yourself. Once you determine the job titles needed, develop a clearly defined job description for your interns.
Design an internship program that provides students with real, meaningful work. Create an environment that encourages inquiry and risk-taking. Provide well-trained mentors or coaches to work with the interns. Encourage students to discover and ask questions. Provide frequent feedback so they continue to develop.
Make the transition from intern to employee clear and smooth. Define a process that interns will follow to become employees. Consider whether that involves an interview process, or if it is automatic. Will interns compete among themselves? Will it be open to experienced candidates. Design it in such a way as to build your talent pool. Create ongoing communications to interns such as emails, blogs, or newsletters to keep them informed and interested in your company.