As a midsize company, Life and Specialty Ventures, or LSV, continually scouts for employees with the right technology skills, often having to compete against larger organizations in bigger cities with more to offer young workers (Editor’s note: The author works for LSV). One of the company’s top young technology managers proposed a solution that leveraged the skills and knowledge of college students eager to build experience that could benefit their career growth.
“Developing a robust internship program was a key business action that worked hand-in-hand with our strategic imperatives —to continue growing our business and attract new talent,”said Nick Tzanev, LSV’s manager of technology solutions.
Tzanev and the human resources team built the organization’s brand on college campuses. They met with professors at the University of North Florida, or UNF, and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, or UALR, to buildrelationships and find out how to attract the best students. The LSV team built trust by working with capstone students and speaking to technology classes. In addition, the company increased its visibility at career fairs by using booths and promotional items tailored to technology students. It was an effective approach that attracted interns to LSV.
Interns were assigned to projects instrumental to meeting company business goals, such as redesigning intranet sites, evaluating and recommending IT vendors, and developing Web portals that integrated with core administrative systems. All projects included the fast-pace, change and deadline pressures associated with typical job roles.
Professors working with LSV noted significant improvements in the students before and after their involvement in these projects “Students understand materials better and realize that time spent inside the classroom is useful and builds a foundation to succeed in the workplace,”said Karthikeyan Umapathy, an associate professor at the University of North Florida’s School of Computing.
“I see a big difference in students once they have worked in a corporate setting,”said Russel Bruhn, a professor with the UALR Donaghey College of Engineering and Information Technology. “It is the combination of using their knowledge gained in the classroom and using it effectively on a real job site. …They may be an average student in the classroom, but put them in a business setting, and they shine.”
LSV’s internship program builds more than temporary bench strength. Existing employees benefit from exposure to new ideas and methods. Two LSV team members sit on academic committees at UALR, helping set the curriculum. At UNF, LSV employees act as “industry advisers,” mentoring students to solve IT problems for nonprofit organizations. The program also offers a new talent pipeline.
The internship program and partnerships are now a key ingredient to LSV’s talent strategy. “We’ve hired four interns who were involved in our program,” Tzanev said. “That’s ‘success’ for both parties. We get to know them, and the students get an opportunity to see if our company is for them.”
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