It’s clear from conversations with ASA members across the country, finding talent continues to be an issue for distributors, manufacturers, and manufacturer reps.
 Identified as a problem several years ago, the challenge continues amidst historically low unemployment rates.

Through ASA’s PROJECT TALENT, articles and webinars have been made available to members that cover the importance of your company’s career website, social media recruitment, leveraging and more to support local recruiting efforts in addition to external marketing touting the benefits of opportunities in the PHCP and PVF industry.

An internship program is another tool for attracting and developing talent, but the benefits go far beyond recruitment.

Obvious benefits include the development of a reliable pipeline of talent and the opportunity to have “on-the-job” evaluation of future employees to ensure the right fit. Also, when interns become hired employees, the cost of advertising, headhunting and onboarding significantly decreases.“We hire around 24 interns each summer and place at least one in each of our branches. Between 50 to 75 percent of our interns are hired full-time following their internship,” says Kristy Ikenberry, hiring and development administrator at Eastern Industrial Supplies, an industrial PVF distributor that offers a robust intern program each year.

However, the more subtle benefits of an internship program make it worth considering if you don’t already have one in place.  These include:

  1. New ideas and fresh perspectives interns can bring to the workplace. Because they are viewing things through a new lens, they may challenge conventional thinking and contribute to innovation within the company.
     “We typically recruit for sales interns, but often they end up enjoying other areas and making contributions in functions such as operations, procurement, HR and marketing,” Ikenberry adds.
  2. With extra sets of hands, interns can help lighten the workload of existing employees, allowing them to focus on more complex tasks and therefore boosting overall productivity.
  3. Interns who are successfully integrated into the company can be developed for leadership positions. This helps with succession planning and can help with transition as the organization evolves.
     “We have one intern from five years ago that has been promoted three times and is currently a branch manager at one of our largest branches,” Ikenberry says.
  4. Internship programs can help positively build not only a company’s brand among customers, but also their employer brand among future employees. This can result in a competitive advantage and contribute to a company's success. It also signals a company’s commitment to nurturing talent, making it more appealing to high-quality candidates.
  5. A byproduct of an internship program is the development of senior employees who provide mentoring. This not only furthers their own development but helps create a learning and growth culture within a company.
  6. Companies can enhance their community involvement through internship programs by investing in developing local talent. This not only benefits the company but strengthens its relationship in the communities it serves. Eastern Industrial targets colleges closest to their branch locations for interns.
  7. Given the rapidly changing technology landscape in the PHCP and PFV industry, interns can often provide fresh insights and skills given their strong grasp of emerging technologies and trends. This may help a company remain competitive and prioritize initiatives as technology continues to evolve.
  8. Finally, interns can take on specific projects, allowing companies to explore or address opportunities that may not be prioritized otherwise. This may lead to new products, services or efficiencies within the organization.

While the apparent benefits of an internship program are clear, it’s these less-than-obvious advantages that make the implementation of a program a must for ASA members.
 “We believe our internship program is mutually beneficial for both the interns and our company,” Ikenberry adds. “Not only do they gain valuable workplace experience, but it allows our company to cultivate a talent pipeline, drive innovation and ultimately make our recruiting more efficient. We assign capstone projects to our interns, and it’s always a highlight to get together at the end of the summer to celebrate their time with us and hear what they’ve learned.”