One of the big lessons we try to teach our students is to take advantage of opportunities for experience. In large part, internships are the clearest of those options. Students can learn about real-world engineering in a work setting—both the good and the bad, the exciting and the mundane, the successes and the failures.
But how do we find these opportunities for 600 mechanical engineers? We rely on our local industry partners to help us place students into these unique positions. And what do they get out of this arrangement? Here’s a hint – it’s not philanthropy alone that drives the decision to offer internships. Rather, the organization is also motivated by its bottom-line. In fact, internships can be part of an organization’s long-term strategies in human resources, and are designed specifically to advance the organization’s mission.
Here are four of the many benefits organizations gain from offering internships:
1. It’s an inexpensive way of auditioning talent.
When a company provides internships, it essentially is trying out the student in a low-cost, low-risk environment. Since there is a set period for the internship, if the student isn’t a good fit, it can easily end the relationship. The bottom line? An internship is a fantastic hiring strategy that protects and even bolsters an organization’s bottom line.
2. The internship provides the organization a fresh perspective to their work.
Engineering students do not yet have baggage from other jobs, or ingrained preconceptions about how something should be done. For the length of the internship, an employer gets a fresh perspective from students willing to ask why things are the way they are and challenge the established assumptions. Energy, enthusiasm and the ability to think outside the box are just some of the qualities an intern can bring your group.
3. The internship program provides talent for projects that are short term or require entry level skills.
This doesn’t mean the intern will be getting coffee. Rather, the company may have just won a contract for a project that will only last 3 months and they need people to do computer modeling or process evaluations. Rather than hire a full time employee, they can employ an intern who will gain valuable work experience and contribute to a real project.
4. It allows the company to craft and strengthen alliances with universities.
The company views the internship as one piece of its university relations strategy, with end goals that could include greater collaboration between company professionals and university researchers, opportunities for representatives from the company and the university to serve on each other’s boards, and co-sponsored proposals for grants and other types of contracts. By offering an internship, the company is demonstrating its desire to work with the university in the near and long term. Smart representatives of both organizations don’t take this partnership lightly, as it can open the doors for collaborations that will greatly serve both parties.
In conclusion, internships provide fantastic and solid return on investment (ROI) for both the intern and the host organization.
Set up an internship for your company
Internships are a low-cost, low-risk way to bring engineering talent to your organization. Interns can act as support to existing employees or even head independent projects.
Interested organizations should look at what kinds of projects an intern could help with, as well as what kinds of learning the intern will gain. Once you have a general idea, contact the Mechanical Engineering Internship Coordinator to discuss the position and begin recruiting.
Students are looking for summer internships now, so this is the perfect time to see how an intern would fit with your group!
Dr. Don Plumlee, Chair
MBE Internship Coordinator