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The Intern Exchange Program

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The Full AEC Intern Experience

Summer is coming to an end and we are saying farewell to our interns. As they make their way back to their higher learning campuses, we know they have left BHC with a superior insight of the engineering, accounting, surveying and personnel resources professions.

Internships are unopened doors full of potential and opportunity awaiting both students and businesses. You may not even realize how valuable these students can be until they finish the program and are gone though. These opportunities don’t just work for the students, but also bring the company and its team a fresh face full of energy, ideas and a desire to learn. Check out these five advantages to bringing students on board.

Internships offer students a hands-on opportunity to work in their desired field. They learn how their course of study applies to the real world and build a valuable experience that makes them stronger candidates for jobs after graduation.

“The work our interns do while they’re here isn’t just busy work or academic-focused. It’s more about hands-on experience and really contributing to the company,” said Kevin Honomichl, BHC President. “Our internship program is about creating a talent pipeline and recruiting quality team members.”

To create our own “well” of future talent, BHC created the Intern Exchange Program (IEP). The IEP, led by Lisa Huddleston, our Talent Development Manager, was created to benefit our interns, our company and our industry.

The vision of the Intern Exchange Program

The vision behind the IEP is to create an inclusive experience for our interns. It’s important to us to show them the full spectrum of our services, as well as the reach we have in the AEC industry. Through the IEP, we have reached out to local partners in our market to join us in the program. The expectation is to really show the interns in the program how important it is to build relationships and create an industry-wide synergy.

The pool of interns who participate in the IEP have ranged from construction management, marketing, public works, local government partners, accounting, civil engineering, architecture, human resources and land surveying. Each of these areas contributes the AEC industry and the IEP is the intern’s passport to explore all of the opportunities within the industry.

That is where the ‘exchange’ part comes in. Interns in the IEP get a close look at the diversity of the AEC industry and how all of the moving parts work together. The IEP gives each of the company or industry partners the opportunity to host the program at their office. When the program visits other companies, it opens up a whole new perspective for the knowledge-hungry interns. During the exchange, the interns can shadow a specific position, learn more about a new discipline and be introduced to mentors and other interns.

Oh, and let’s not forget about retention. Over the last three years, we have secured four intern-to-employee hires. BHC invests a lot of resources into the IEP. Each year, we increase the number of interns we host in the program. Because we’re able to grow our numbers, we have had two interns return for our second-year program. Second-year interns are like signing big prospects to your minor league team. You’ve got their trust and commitment, so let’s see what they can do. Forbes recently published a great article on ways to invest in summer interns. The key is to treat them as if they are regular employees already, so that you can later reap a return on your investment.

What Interns Bring To The Table

The IEP creates an added value for each of the partners in the program. The more resources our partner companies are willing to put toward the internship program, the better it will be. The better the internship program, the more competitive it will be. And the more competitive the program, the stronger the applicant pool.

Companies can, and should, learn from their interns. The millennial generation of interns are change makers. They have their finger on the pulse of the job market and new technologies. That’s free R&D at your fingertips! What about giving your company culture a boost? The new wave of talent graduating college has a very different perspective of culture. If you were to ask our interns what they enjoyed most from their internship, majority of them would say our culture and ‘no problem’ attitude was a great fit for them. Are you thinking about an office remodel? Office space can also effect your talent pipeline. Designing a modern and collaborative space will help attract new grads to your workforce. Figure out what interns like most about your company, but more importantly what they don’t. This creates the perfect opportunity to begin shifting your corporate culture for recruiting the next generation of employees.

The Future
We get that programs like the IEP aren’t the best fit for all organizations. There are still a number of alternatives to internships like scholarships or organizational/chapter sponsorships. College career fairs or becoming a student mentor is also a good way to network with students and attract new talent. Even if at the very least, offering a piece of good advice can make a big difference.

The AEC Industry thrives on relationships built from the ground up. By laying the foundation of a collaborative company culture we can spark a synergy wildfire for years to come. We encourage our colleagues evaluate your internship programs and look for ways to mix it up.

“Train people well enough so they can leave. Treat them well enough so they don’t want to.”
– Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Group

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