The summer is often the busiest season for trade companies, including construction businesses. The longer days and nice weather mean that projects are usually moving at full speed, and in many parts of the country, there’s nothing to slow down work like there is in the winter. Summer is also when college students are out of classes. They are usually looking for short-term employment or for a way of gaining new skills that they can use in their careers.
Since your construction team may be in need of some extra hands during your busy season, why not create an internship program for these college students? You’ll get the extra help you need with basic tasks, while your interns will learn the trade. You may even find someone you want to hire full time once they complete their education. In that regards, an internship is something like an extended interview.
Co-Op Vs. Internship
Some students look for co-ops to join rather than internships. There are several differences between the two. Co-ops, or cooperative education, is a more formal method of combining practical experiences with classroom credit over a number of years. For example, a student might take courses in the fall but work in the spring for several years.
An internship, on the other hand, often only lasts for the summer or for one semester. The intern may be paid, or they may work for the experience alone. You may also bring in high school students or even adults who are looking to gain more experience. It depends on what tasks you plan on having your interns do and what skills they may need.
Benefits of an Internship
When you bring in an intern, both of you benefit. The primary purpose of an internship is for the intern to gain skills and hands-on experience that will make it easier to acquire a job after they graduate. Some interns do receive a small paycheck, but many work merely to learn a trade or gain knowledge about the industry.
Interning for your construction company will allow your interns to see what the day-to-day work is like, learn some basic construction skills, and gain experience with some tools and other equipment. Of course, because they are unskilled, you won’t want them handling the more complex or dangerous work, but they can still observe.
At the end of their internship, your students will have gained insight into the construction industry and have learned how to perform some of the basic tasks that they would do in a full-time position. They will also have learned if working in construction is what they want to do with their lives. If they decide that it’s not for them, they will know now rather than after they graduate and have found a full-time job.
You also gain a number of things by having an internship program. First, you’re gaining what is essentially free labor. Yes, you and your crew will have to teach your interns what to do and supervise them, but once they have worked for you for a few weeks, they’re likely to be able to do basic tasks on their own. This frees up your skilled employees and allows them to focus on tasks that require their knowledge and expertise. An intern can carry materials from one place to another, for example, while a skilled employee cuts them. This reduces the amount of time spent on the task.
As mentioned earlier, an internship can also serve as a type of interview. You’ll be able to see which of your interns are outstanding and genuinely enjoy construction work. Once they graduate, you can extend an offer of full-time employment. You know what these interns will be capable of, and since they’ve already worked for you, they know you, your company, and what’s expected of them. That means you don’t have to spend as much time training them or helping them adjust to your company’s atmosphere and workplace culture.
Your former interns are more likely to work for you longer than others, improving your retention rate and lowering the amount of time you have to spend on recruiting. There’s not as much guesswork in the hiring process. You know what the person is capable of and what skills they have, and they know what it’s like to work for you.
Tips for Creating Your Internship Program
Creating an internship program may seem daunting if you don’t have one in place. However, it’s actually relatively simple. Here are a few tips on how to start a program at your construction company.
- Create a detailed description of what you expect the intern to do. This job description should outline their responsibilities, who they report to, and what they will learn after the internship is over.
- Outline how the intern’s performance will be reviewed. You should have regular meetings with your intern just as you would a new employee. Discuss how they’re doing, ask if they have questions, and praise the work they have done so far.
- Have work for your intern. If you haven’t had interns before, you may not know exactly what to have them do. Plan out a number of projects and be sure to include tasks that are more than just busy work or unskilled labor. Your intern is there to learn, so make sure you’ve set up opportunities for them to do so.
- Select a mentor for your intern. This is the person on your crew who will supervise the intern and help show them the ropes. Ideally, each intern will have their own mentor who can work one-on-one with them.
- Make sure you know the laws regarding unpaid internships so that you do not accidentally break them.
Reap the Benefits of an Internship
As you can see, an internship offers a good number of benefits to your company and to your interns. By providing your interns with a chance to gain skills and learn how the construction industry works, you’re giving them a chance to see if this is the career they want. You benefit by training potential future employees you can bring on board with little to no extensive training. It’s a win-win opportunity for everyone involved.