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Internship Programs that Cultivate Future Employees

Internship Programs that Cultivate Future Employees

By: Linda Childers

With more companies competing for the best talent, it’s never been more important for businesses to create a solid internship program to attract the next generation of corporate trailblazers.

Across industries, interns are hired with an eye toward cultivating future staff and recruiting college graduates to the corporate world.

Are you looking to start your own successful internship program? Consider these best practices from companies whose internship programs are deeply integrated into their corporate culture.

Setting a High Bar for Interns
“All of our hiring managers interview and assess interns in the same manner as potential full-time employees,” says Marie-Therese Ellis, University Relations manager for Brocade, an industry leader in high-performance network solutions.

In addition to hiring college juniors and seniors for summer internships, Brocade recently introduced an internship program where students can work on a part-time basis for 8-12 weeks during the school year.

Provide Interns with Guidance
Jawbone, a world-leader in consumer technology and wearable devices, requires internal teams who request interns show they have the time and dedication to create and help drive a meaningful project for the student. 

“This includes assigning a manager and a mentor, weekly one-on-one meetings with the intern to monitor progress and celebrating milestones,” says Drew McGuire, head of University Programs at Jawbone in San Francisco, Calif.

Recruit Wisely
As the process for recruiting talented interns has become more competitive, companies are utilizing a variety of strategies including social media, networking, and college recruiting to attract students.

“We look for interns who demonstrate initiative, an eagerness to learn, a willingness to work hard and who show the potential for leadership,” Ellis says. “Often it’s hard to distinguish those qualities on paper, so a face-to-face interview is key.”

Jawbone forgoes the traditional college career fairs, preferring to attend campus Hackathons and other student-led activities to recruit interns.

Hold Orientations and Training
A successful intern program should provide plenty of training and supervision.

“We have a kick-off reception for our interns where one of our executives discusses our corporate culture and the expectations we have for our employees,” Ellis says. “In addition, they attend the same orientation as our full-time employees.”

At Brocade, weekly social and professional network meetings are held where interns hear from executives in different departments. As a result, interns gain a better understanding of the overall company.

Allow Interns to Contribute
Providing your interns with meaningful work gives them the opportunity to make meaningful contributions to your company.

Ellis says that Brocade interns work on projects that have the ability to influence company processes, and receive constructive feedback from their manager and team, as well as a mentor for extra guidance and support.

“We have many interns who come up with innovative ideas and deliverables during their internship that are immediately implemented into the company,” Ellis says.

“At the end of their internship, students give a company-wide presentation, showing what they accomplished during the program,” McGuire says.

Plan Activities That Go Beyond Work
Social perks are another draw for companies who are hoping to lure top students to their companies as summer interns. They also serve to ensure that students have an enjoyable and memorable internship experience.

In addition to being paid at the same market rate as Bay Area technology companies, both Brocade and Jawbone offer interns the same benefits and perks as full-time staff, including vacation pay. Most interns receive health coverage through their parents’ plans.

At Jawbone, interns are invited to attend the same company-wide events, parties, celebrations, and sporting leagues, as the company’s 450 staff members, including social and networking events including scavenger hunts, Giants baseball games, and picnics and barbeques, and a speaker series.

In 2014, the company held their first Intern Product Design contest, where interns were asked to brainstorm and pitch a new product idea to a panel of employees. The winning team was given tickets to the Outside Lands concert event in San Francisco.

Interns and your Talent Pipeline
If your company plans to use the internship program to drive new graduate hiring, use evaluations from managers to assess whether the intern would be a good match for your company.

At minimum, be sure to maintain contact with the student and make a job offer as soon as possible, since many of today’s students receive multiple job offers upon graduation.

“Throughout the internship experience, both Jawbone and the intern are able to assess if this is the right place for them to begin their career after they graduate,” McGuire says. “High performing interns are automatically considered for new graduate positions, and we often create new positions just to hire them.”