March 14, 2019 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

When a human resources employee scans resumes for a position, key words often make the difference between someone advancing to the next step or having their resume tossed aside. In the case of young workers, the ability to place key words on a resume often comes from internships. With the help of companies, young hopefuls have a chance to gain relevant knowledge, skills, and establish important connections to further their careers.

On the flipside, interns take resources. According to fair labor laws, unpaid interns should either be taking the internship for a class or be receiving instruction and mentorship as though they were in a class. In the current business environment, the idea of an employee taking on the task of teacher to a 20-something may not be appealing. Fortunately, there are ways to help youth become prime
future employees.

College Possible is an organization that helps students get into college and gives them encouragement throughout their upper-level education. This year, they are serving almost 25,000 students and have a 98 percent success rate. Denzell Clements is a college coach at University of Nebraska-Omaha, acting as an adviser to College Possible participants. He helps students with FAFSA information, helps them find activities to be involved in on campus, and meets with them to provide support when they are feeling overwhelmed.

College Possible has an internship program that allows students to shadow the coaches and serve students. This allows the opportunity for interns to organize projects, create management skills, and serve with their peers. There is not a specific major that is needed to apply, so all students are welcome to send in an application for the opportunity to serve the community.

Clements was a student in the College Possible program and majoring in music. He was encouraged by his own coach to work for the company and has done so since August 2018.

“I help this nonprofit, and like many others, help guide our future leaders of the community in some way, shape, or form by giving them the best tools that we have to offer for navigating through school,” Clements says.

College Possible has seven locations across the United States, but with the help of donors, coaches, and interns they hope to become accessible to all 50 states, which could help bridge the gaps between young students who are unsure about how to pursue higher education and success.

Other companies create separate internship programs with a designated coordinator to facilitate the learning experience and create a point person for interns to turn to.

Metropolitan Utilities District is one such program.

“The [internship] program is for any current, full-time college students,” Vice President of Human Resources Bonnie Savine says. “We actually also take applications from college-bound students, those registered for the upcoming fall semester full-time, in case we don’t have enough current college students.”

The MUD internship program tries to pair students with assignments related to their major, but they are also given an opportunity to do something different, such as performing grounds work, painting fire hydrants, and other manual labor. The experience gives students an idea of what their future work days may entail.

“The college students that participate in our summer program or one of our posted internships benefit from acclimating to a full-time work schedule and all of the time commitments and responsibilities that come with that,” Savine says. “They are also participating in some level of training on the job, attending orientation to learn about policies and procedures of the company, getting feedback on performance at the end of their assignment, reporting to a chain of command, and taking away experience for future employment.”

This program runs from the beginning of May to the second week of September and accepts between 35 and 50 interns each year. It requires 40 hours per week during their time with MUD.

Valmont Industries, a manufacturer of linear irrigation, lighting and traffic poles, and much more, has internships that span areas from engineering to marketing. Each intern is given an individual and group project where they focus on key strategies within their areas of expertise and present their findings and recommendations to senior leaders within the organization.

“An intern at Valmont will have meaningful daily responsibilities that are impactful for the business,” Senior Director of Talent Management Patrick Groves says. “The internships are aligned by functional area to leverage the students’ education and provide them insight into the career fields they’re pursuing.”

To obtain an internship at Valmont Industries, college hopefuls must apply online, and go through a phone or in-person interview. This is followed by trips to the site where the intern will work. The company also goes to career fairs and speaks with students who stand out.

“The on-site interviews give the candidate an opportunity to meet with their direct supervisor and members of the team, and often include a plant tour as well,” Groves says. “We put a lot of effort into making sure the student has a good opportunity to evaluate and understand the role before an offer is presented.”

More than half of Valmont Industries interns return to the company for future internships or join the company on a full-time basis. Groves credits the well-run, structured program as being the key to success.

And today’s successful interns will become tomorrow’s successful employees.


Visit collegepossible.org. mudomaha.com, or valmont.com for more information.

This article was printed in the April/May 2019 edition of B2B. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Patrick Groves of Valmont Industries

Patrick Groves, Senior Director of Talent Management, Valmont Industries