One change involved asking IT managers to give a business justification for hiring interns. Rather than just hearing that the managers hope to bring in students, "we want to hear what they plan to do with them," Brewer says. "We want to make sure that it isn't just grunt work." This approach not only makes better use of interns, but also ensures that they are matched with projects that suit their skills and aptitudes.
The company also extended the program over two summers, giving interns more opportunity to work in different parts of IT and also giving the company a longer window for evaluating their potential.
"Since December of 2011, five interns have graduated from school; all five have been offered permanent positions, and all five have accepted those positions within our IT department," says Brewer.
One such intern was Scott Sullivan, now 24 and an associate IT application consultant for We Energies.
"Through my internship, I was able to apply my appreciation and passion for IT to initiatives that support critical processes and functions," recalls Sullivan, who spent one year in the old summer worker program and one semester as a new IT intern. "I was given the opportunity to join the application support team and participate in an ongoing companywide software upgrade."
"They haven't seen any limits yet," says JPL's Soderstrom. "What we have to do as managers is to harness and support that energy, and of course, when they break a few eggs, help them clean it up."
Harbert is a Washington, D.C.-based writer specializing in technology, business and public policy and a frequent Computerworld contributor.
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