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Executive Q&A: How to Maximize the Potential of Interns
Interns can be a valuable asset to companies in many ways and have a positive outcome for both parties, as interns gain real-world experience, provide new ideas and have a high chance of getting hired.

by Roselyn Agar, Kirtesh Ladwa and John Oberer

We asked three local executives what is or should be involved in an internship program in order for them to be successful and how they maximize the potential of each intern.

Roselyn Agar, talent acquisition officer, Columbia Bank
“A properly structured paid internship program with appropriate buy-in can be a low-cost asset to a business. An intern’s development can be maximized by establishing a program that is based on experiential learning. An effective program should include: work plans, research projects, young professional/executive panel discussions and forums, networking events, training classes, mentor and buddy assignments, resume/social profile workshops, internal focus groups to share product/service ideas, continuous and formal check-ins/feedback, work presentations, internship evaluation surveys, and/or meaningful community service events. You can ensure intern organizational readiness by committing time upfront during the recruitment process, creating a dialogue to assess alignment of values and skills.”

Kirtesh Ladwa, P.E. department manager, highway, Dewberry
“Dewberry offers a competitive, paid, engineering internship to attract outstanding talent and potential future employees. An intern works with a project team, alongside an engineer or technical professional mentor, who encourages him/her to ask questions. In addition to in-office training, field visits are essential for the development of our intern to understand engineering concepts and projects being worked on directly. Opportunities to learn from peers about new technologies and share ideas in collaborative forums also occur. This experience has proven quite successful for us and more directly my transportation department. I alone have had three interns become employees upon their college graduations, which is a great return on investment.”

John Oberer, associate principal, GZA
“GZA GeoEnvironmental, Inc. (GZA) has identified some of its most promising environmental consulting staff through its internship program. A robust program—offering the student similar training, mentoring and field and office experiences as an entry-level employee—is advantageous for all involved. The student gains practical experience that enhances classroom learning. If GZA hires the student, we know he/she can hit the ground running, will already know GZA’s culture and standards and we can be confident he/she will contribute effectively to our clients’ projects. GZA interns are compensated. GZA feels a responsibility to our communities and our profession to help bright and highly qualified students gain real-world experience that fosters their career development.”

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Published (and copyrighted) in South Jersey Biz, Volume 9, Issue 12 (December 2019).

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