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  • Company’s Intern/Co-op Conversion Efforts Yield High Rates

    August 16, 2017 | By NACE Staff

    An intern who just signed on for a full time position smiles.

    TAGS: best practices, internships, nace insights

    Spotlight for Recruiting Professionals

    In FY17, Rockwell Collins had 164 interns and co-ops eligible to be hired full time. So far, the company has hired 108—65.9 percent—and that number has the potential to grow.  

    “We are still in the process of hiring the intern/co-op class of FY16, so this number could rise as we fill more positions in FY17,” adds Kaly Etten, leader of university relations and K-12 programs for Rockwell Collins. “We had 202 interns and co-ops who were eligible to return for another internship and we hired 52 percent to return for an additional student session.”

    These numbers are in line with Rockwell Collins’ intern/co-op conversion rates over the past three years, which ranged from 61.1 percent in FY14 to 68.5 percent in FY15. The company emphasizes hiring its interns for full-time positions for several reasons.

    “The benefits of doing so are two-fold,” Etten explains. “These students have already been acclimated to the culture, the programs in which they work, our technology, and the communities in which we reside, and have an overall understanding of our company. We take that experience for the student and combine it with the benefit to the leader, which is a shorter learning curve for meeting expectations as a new hire because they’ve worked with us anywhere from 10 weeks to several years.”

    Rockwell Collins’ focus on hiring interns that it feels would be successful full-time employees begins with a conversation at the time the internship position is opened by a hiring manager. University relations recruiters talk to the leader to ensure that the internship aligns with the company’s strategy and that he or she knows a student is a potential full-time hire in the future. With that understanding early on, the manager will ensure that he or she is investing time and energy into the student.

    During the recruiting process, Rockwell Collins looks for candidates who have a passion or desire to work in the aerospace and defense industry, or have experience working with its products.

    “We also like to see students who are succeeding academically in critical disciplines that we hire from,” Etten adds. “Having student organization, project, or leadership experience partnered with academics will also help students stand out. Lastly, we look for effective communication skills.”

    At its smaller sites, Rockwell Collins leadership and local human resources personnel ensure effective onboarding. At its corporate headquarters, there is a large group orientation where 100-plus students start on the same day and are welcomed in by a large “trade show” setup.

    Different departments and employee resource groups within Rockwell Collins, and community partners that want to showcase activities and ways for interns/co-ops to get involved set up tables and engage students, who fill out necessary paperwork and receive key job- and community-related information.

    Beyond orientation, Rockwell Collins offers various events and programs during the student employee experience, including:

    • Lunch-and-learns with the CEO and senior leadership;
    • Motivational speakers;
    • Social events to acclimate students to the community and their peers;
    • Student Startup Weekend, which showcases the value Rockwell Collins places on the entrepreneurial spirit;
    • Personality assessments; and
    • Department lead events.

    “We also have a team member who is dedicated to the student employee experience,” Etten says. “This team member ensures that each student is taught the skills that match their curriculum, has visibility to our corporate landscape through programming, and ensures that each student employee is acclimated to the community where they are working. Having this three-pillared approach ensures that students can see themselves working at Rockwell Collins and living in the community post-graduation.”

    Another team member is dedicated to maximizing visibility for conversion-eligible students during Rockwell Collins’ new graduate hiring processes. All student resumes and leader feedback are shared with leaders across the organization.

    “We want to maximize the exposure for the students through this process,” Etten points out. “Our goal is to have an offer out to students before they leave the summer program, but we work the following fall and spring semesters to match them to open new graduate positions.”

    When interns and co-ops are on site, Rockwell Collins assesses them for fit by looking at how effective they are working in a diverse and global work force, as well as their ability to demonstrate their skills obtained through school and bring them into the working world.

    “Teamwork and collaboration skills will ensure that a student stands out,” Etten notes.

    Rockwell Collins also acknowledges that students are assessing the company as a potential first destination after graduation. To meet student expectations, it surveys students to get a pulse on its programming throughout the internship/co-op experience.

    “We also have a select group of students on a social committee,” Etten says. “They are positioned on the student employee group as a catalyst to give feedback to the university relations team on programming and events. This group is empowered to plan and execute events and activities to engage students throughout their student employment.”

    Many interns and co-ops still work part time for Rockwell Collins once they return to school, allowing them to further enhance their skills and strengthen their connection to the company. Rockwell Collins also has a formal student ambassador program in which the ambassadors represent its brand on campus.

    “There are many benefits for us to hire students into our student employee program,” Etten says. “First, it gives exposure of Rockwell Collins products and services to students, and enhances the desired skills needed in future talent in the earlier stage of their career. It also gives exposure to the markets that Rockwell Collins serves and provides an opportunity for students to get work experience to partner with their curriculum.”

    Rockwell Collins is proving that two keys to converting interns and co-ops into full-time employees is to work up front to identify strong candidates who would be successful in the organization, and provide them with a comprehensive and valuable experience.