INTERNSHIPS PROVIDE INVALUABLE EXPERIENCE
April 11, 2017
By David Theriot, Military Workforce Development, Performance Contractors, Inc.
One of the biggest frustrations when looking for a career is that some companies will advertise entry-level positions that require three years of experience. How are you supposed to get work experience when no one will hire you without work experience, right? Internships are a great way to gain valuable industry experience as you get your feet wet in a real-world setting. Many companies, including mine, offer summer or part-time internships for students because they are beneficial to both the student and the business.
Performance Contractors, Inc. usually takes on about 35-40 interns a year spread across the fields of project services, quality control, safety, accounting, billing, human resources and in the fabrication shop. We find candidates through high school and college outreach, word of mouth and personal references. We then interview potential interns and select the ones who show the most promise and interest. We have part-time interns during school semesters and both full and part timers during summer break. The pay is usually between $9 and $15 per hour based on experience and job type and the work week can be anywhere between 13 – 40 hours a week.
Interns here are treated as if they were full-time employees except they have more of a learning environment with a lot less pressure to perform tasks alone, and are expected to need extra help. They are included in all company extracurricular activities such as tailgating and Christmas parties, and are made to feel as if they are part of the team. We use them as sort of “utility players” and try to expose them to as many different facets of the department they are assigned to, while also having them do real tasks alongside coworkers. This gives the intern a good idea of the tasks they do and do not enjoy.
Our project services interns are usually college underclassmen who start their first summer as field hands. This gives them a good overview of what our business is and how we generate revenue. Once the summer is complete, we transfer the best candidates to our corporate office where they attend the same training classes that new, full-time employees must complete. These classes are taught by our department heads and cover all of our systems and procedures. They are then assigned to positions in the corporate office where they perform the same tasks as junior project service employees.
The benefits are clear to this process. The internship teaches the intern how we do business and what is expected from them in these types of roles. It also gives them a sense of whether or not they fit in with the company or the industry. It also allows them to speak intelligently about the industry and hit the ground running if they choose to work in our industry. For high school interns, it also gives them a sense of what postsecondary education they should pursue to obtain the position they want.
The internship also allows the company to get to know the intern and determine if they would be a good candidate for a permanent position. We get to see character and work ethic, how they function with and within our systems and whether they fit in with our defined corporate culture. The internship program has been extremely successful for us, and about 80-90 percent of project services interns that complete the program are extended offers of permanent employment upon college graduation.
Tomas Herrera is a USMC Veteran and a senior at Southeastern Louisiana University who is currently an intern for us in the quality control department. According to him, the program is, “a win-win situation that will make you more valuable for the future and it has opened a lot of doors for me here. I can see some great opportunities ahead.” We couldn’t agree more, and by all accounts, he is thriving in his position.
If you are unsure about which career field you would like to eventually end up in or which position you’d like to pursue, an internship is a great way to find out. If you already know which field or company you’d like to work in, an internship is a great way to get your foot in the door. Ask around at your school’s guidance office or contact companies that you are interested in directly to apply. The worst that could happen is you gain valuable knowledge, form new professional relationships and make a few bucks in the process.