Jack M., engineering student at Florida Gulf Coast University, Carlee S., engineering student at Olivet Nazarene University, and Tom H., business student from Central Michigan University pose for a picture on their first day at HST Materials, Inc.
Janice Lopez, director of the Women’s Business Development Center (WBDC), penned Should You Start an Internship Program?, an article that provides business owners with three initial steps to guide them through the planning process of launching an internship program. I can personally attest to running a successful internship program. Our internship program just wrapped up its second year and I am happy to offer a few additional pieces of advice for small manufacturing companies.
- You can compete for talent with larger companies. College students want an internship. It looks good on their resume, they earn a salary and sometimes they earn college credit. Working in a small manufacturing company, interns can oftentimes see the impact of their contributions immediately. Such was the case when our interns designed and constructed a Cone of Silence to lower the decibel level on one of our die-cutting machines. As a small manufacturer, you actually offer an advantage over large corporate internship programs because your interns can learn beside your workforce—not only managers, but production and machine operators, too. Interns want to feel needed and invited to share their opinion. Sell these advantages and opportunities during your internship search.
- Recruiting isn’t as difficult as you think. Most four-year universities and junior colleges offer internship programs in many curriculums. Reach out to local schools in your area and speak with internship coordinators about the position(s) you are offering. Be sure to offer a competitive salary (over minimum wage) to show recruits you’re serious. If your budget is tight, limit the length of the internship. Six week programs worked for HST the first year and gave us the opportunity to evaluate and improve our program for 2016.
- Make good use of your interns. The right intern is willing to work. Start them off with a project that is compatible with their chosen field of study. Make sure you have resources and reporting expectations in place. Meet with your intern daily to make sure they are on the right path to achieving your company’s goal. Are they finished early with their project? If they demonstrated an outstanding work ethic and are eager to continue learning, keep them on longer to complete other assignments you may still have on the backburner. Good workers are hard to find.
Internships are a win-win for students looking for valuable experience and for companies who may need extra assistance in completing overdue projects. Students are eager to learn the ins and outs of your business and they can be a tremendous help if they are utilized correctly. “The intern you hire today can eventually become the full-time employee who takes your company to the next level,” reminds Janice Lopez. I agree!
HST Materials, Inc.
HST Materials, Inc. is a member of WBDC and an advocate of internship programs to help identify future talent for manufacturing.