Customers rely on us for our ability to solve some of their most complex machining and product development issues. Each employee here is dedicated to making sure those challenges are met. But how do we guarantee our high levels of service will continue well into the future?
Competition for talent in the manufacturing sector is intense and is only going to increase. Across the U.S., experienced engineers and artisans are now reaching retirement age and many young people aren’t aware of how rewarding a career in manufacturing can be. In order to maintain a seamless source of talent, we developed a series of succession-planning initiatives that serve as “feeder” programs for our workforce. One of these is our engineering internship program.
Finding the Right Students
Back in 2013, when the program started, we would actively recruit from a variety of colleges with solid engineering departments. Since word of our program has spread, we now have more candidates than positions. The number of positions available depends on the workload scheduled for the summer period in which the internship takes place. Students contact us directly on our website or are referred to us by their schools. We review their resumes and conduct a series of interviews. The final selection is made by our Vice President of Engineering, Vice President of Human Resources and our Executive Vice President.
During the interview process, we look for mechanical engineering talent and potential. A strong curiosity and a drive to figure out how things work and how parts come together is vital. In addition, we demand a good work ethic. Starting work at 4:30 in the morning does not come naturally to most college students (which is required during certain parts of the internship). But most importantly, we are looking for candidates that closely match our core company values and mission.
How the Program Works
The internship program operates over three summer periods, usually starting between the freshman and sophomore year. A mentor is assigned to the student for each summer period. Before the session begins, the mentor prepares a list of assignments the intern is expected to complete by the end of the summer. If the school offers credit for the program, their requirements are also included. Each mentor monitors their interns’ progress through formal meetings and informal chats (like lunch and dinners). They also assist with any issues or questions that might arise.
But it’s not all work. Time for fun is built into the program with welcoming luncheons, baseball outings, etc. (after all, we are a great place to work). The students are given a checklist of skills to be learned. At the end of the summer, they are expected to turn in a report outlining what they have learned.
Year One: The entire first year is devoted to laying down a solid foundation of the mechanics of machining parts. The intern is out in the plant, rotating from operation to operation, observing and learning about each position under the watchful eye of one of our most experienced machinists. Working side by side with the operator, the intern learns how to operate the equipment, but more importantly learns how the plans drawn up by engineers are machined to produce a finished part. This mindset will help them create more effective designs in the future.
Year Two: Between the sophomore and junior year, the focus shifts to quality control and the supply chain. They learn the nuances of inspecting parts side by side with our quality control experts, including the use of micrometers and other measuring instrumentation. The supply chain training helps them gain an understanding of all the raw materials that are used in making our parts.
Year Three: The entire summer between the junior and senior year is spent in the Engineering Department. Interns are given projects to be delivered under the supervision of our engineers.
Throughout the three years, there are opportunities built into the program to meet customers and vendors and attend formal classes including blueprint reading, quality and safety.
Return on Our Investment
One measure of the success of our internship succession plan is the high hiring ratio of those who complete the program. These employees are already working with our customers to help them with their engineering challenges.
Like all our employees, the interns are automatically part of our E2B2 Continuous Improvement Program and have offered suggestions that have created cost saving or enhanced production time and efficiency.
Most importantly, the program meets our strategic need of creating a new cadre of engineers that are not only talented, but now have a pragmatic view of real-life problem solving. We are also engaging potential employees who reflect our social values. Best of all, the experience and knowledge transfer created by the program guarantees our customers seamless quality service from this generation to the next.