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Internship Programs: 3 Keys to Finding and Retaining Top Talent

Written by Shawn Turner

Hundreds gathered at Corporate College East on Feb. 21 for the 2019 Cleveland Internship Summit. Throughout the year, we will be bringing you highlights covered during the event. Today’s recap focuses on the three key strengths of FedEx Custom Critical’s internship program.

The success FedEx Custom Critical’s internship program has enjoyed over the years comes down to three things, Ramona Hood, the company’s Vice President of Operations, Planning and Strategy, said during the opening keynote of the 2019 Cleveland Internship Summit:

  • Establishing partnerships with key partners;
  • providing interns with meaningful work; and
  • putting an intentional focus on the program in order to generate the highest possible return.

Hood elaborated on each of these points during her address, providing a roadmap the assembled group of business leaders and educators could follow in order to provide the best possible internship experience for their own students and interns. For example:

Establishing partnerships

FedEx maintains close partnerships with several schools in the Northeast Ohio region in order to ensure that the company’s pipeline of interns—typically between 12 to 18 interns are in the program at one time—remains full.

FedEx also takes these partnerships a step further through assisting the universities with resume workshops for the students, mock interviews and more. These kinds of touchpoints help build relationships with the schools and through those relationships, FedEx Custom Critical’s internship program leaders can provide feedback on the students’ work at the company and, vice versa, the universities can give constructive criticism back to FedEx on the structure of their program. She added later that it’s vital for companies to take this feedback seriously and be willing to make changes as needed based on it.

Meaningful work

The days of viewing interns as someone who refills the boss’ coffee mug are long over, Hood said. It’s vital that companies provide meaningful work and experience to the students because these are people who might well end up working full-time for the company after graduation.

At FedEx, Hood said company officials have found the best way to accomplish this goal is by doing legwork before the internship starts. The company communicates expectations and what success looks like and in doing so, can gauge the intern’s progress as the internship progresses.

Hood said her company is also not afraid to give interns an opportunity to focus on finding ways to transform the organization and make it more efficient. A lot of times, this means taking a closer look at repetitive processes at the company and allowing the students to find ways to improve these processes. An added benefit? It frees up time for full-time staff members to focus on other important tasks.

Intentional focus

Lastly, Hood stressed to attendees that a company’s internship program must be a point of intentional focus within a company. It’s critical, she said, that companies design internships to be a part of their overall talent strategy.

As an example, she cited the fact that FedEx takes internships as an opportunity to take their own full-time staff and challenge them even further by placing them in a mentorship role. Not only does such an action help the interns excel within the program, it also gives the full-time employee experience in a leadership role.

Want to know more about internship best practices? Visit the Greater Cleveland Partnership’s Internship Central hub to learn more about how to build a best-in-class internship program at your business.

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