Our apprentices are leaving us [insert tears here]. It’s the natural course of things… they go back to school to learn more things, and we go back to normal office life. But before we give in to the tears completely, we’re evaluating the summer to see what worked really well. Here are 4 aspects of our apprentice program that we’ve found are vital to its success.
An idle man is a miserable man
The first aspect is by far the most important in our program. We put our apprentices to work. Not getting coffee or making copies, but doing real stuff. I personally had more than one internship where I spent most of my time asking for work to do (and not receiving it). Our goal is that our apprentices are never bored. We hired them because they have skills, and we want to put those skills to good use. We consider this program an opportunity for us as much as it is for them—we have a chance to train them early and get them integrated into our culture and processes. That creates a pool for us of highly desirable full-time hires when they graduate. And their opportunity? They get to learn the nitty-gritty of the profession they’ve chosen and have real work experience at the end of the summer. They’re not miserable, and neither are we.
Our apprentices tell us all the time—they’re applying what they’ve learned in school so far, but working on real life projects lets them go so far beyond what they could ever learn in a classroom.
Can they reach the stars?
There is a universal truth about interns: they’re young. We choose mature, responsible students to be our apprentices, but they’re still young. That doesn’t mean they’re not capable of doing really great work for us, but it does mean they probably need some structure and direction to get the job done (don’t we all benefit from that?). We’ve found that it’s important for us to set manageable goals and deadlines for our apprentices to meet. We learned this the hard way—we used to set broad, long-term goals (example: this project should be done in 4 months). That kind of goal is overwhelming and not very helpful. Instead, we’ve learned to break those long-term goals down into daily and weekly chunks. We call them tasks and stories. Multiple tasks make up one story. Then we set a deadline on each task and story, which we work into the long-term timeline for a particular project. This approach helps us know better whether a project is on track, and it helps our apprentices stay on pace. It’s a win all around.
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy
Community is really important to us at EduSource (and to humans in general, am I right?). We want our apprentices to enjoy the experience of being in a work environment as much as they enjoy the work itself. And let’s be honest, everyone needs a break from sitting at their desks. We foster a sense of community through office birthday celebrations, silly traditions, and after-work get-togethers. One of our teams recently had a spontaneous drawing contest on a community whiteboard and got the whole office involved in the judging.
These interludes might seem irrelevant and unproductive, but the truth? You can’t put a price on a happy office. And a happy office is a productive office—even with intermittent drawing contests.
Don’t forget the cherry on top
You may or may not be surprised by how many companies just kind of skip the exit interview. I’m not talking about the how-you-disconnect-your-email question, I’m talking about the what-did-you-think-of-the-summer question. We all know in theory that we should ask for feedback, but it’s easy to let the opportunity slink out the back door without ever tapping it on the shoulder for a quick conversation. Asking our apprentices how they felt about the program, what they liked and what they would change, has given us some of our best ideas (and deep-sixed some we only thought were good…). It’s not hard, and it’s worth every second you put into it.
Have you found these ideas to be important in your company’s internship program? Would you like 96 other helpful ideas to build your internship program? Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll send it back to you. And comment below with your own ideas about how to create an awesome internship program!