July 30, 2018 | By NACE Staff
TAGS: best practices, internships, branding and marketing, operations, spotlight
Spotlight for Recruiting Professionals
In the summer of 2016, Baxter Healthcare launched its Intern Project Expo to allow interns to articulate their experiences at the end of the summer.
“Prior to the expo, we required our interns to do a formal presentation about a volunteer assignment,” explains Sonia Starks, Baxter Healthcare’s manager, early talent programs. “It allowed us to hear from our interns and provided them with an opportunity to practice their presentation skills. However, it did not allow us, as a program, to get a true sense of their practical intern work experiences, and technical and functional skill sets.”
Baxter Healthcare’s Intern Project Expo also allows its interns to showcase their achievements, and highlight the contributions and impact they have made on the organization.
“This event provides our interns a venue to speak about their experiences in an informal and conversational atmosphere, while showcasing their work,” Starks says.
Baxter Healthcare hosts the Intern Project Expo at its corporate headquarters and at a local research and development facility in its Northern Illinois locations. Interns participate in the expo in the location that aligns with their functional area; interns in finance, marketing, and IT participate at the corporate headquarters while most of the technical function interns participate at the research and development facility.
“This allows them to engage with many of their functional peers in that location as they discuss their specific projects,” Starks says. “The set up is similar to a science fair or career fair.”
Each intern creates a poster board display with information regarding his or her project. Various Baxter employees, senior leaders, and key stakeholders are invited to attend the expo, and meet and interact with the interns to learn more about their summer projects.
“It’s a walk-up type of event,” Starks points out. “We also strategically send ‘secret’ evaluators who walk around the expo to engage interns, and observe their presentations, displays, and technical and communication skills.”
Starks says criteria for the displays are:
Final evaluations are then provided to the program management team, which gives monetary scholarship awards to four selected interns—two from each location—in recognition of the “best intern display.”
“This is a great way to incentivize our interns for their hard work,” Starks says. “Our interns also benefit by presenting their intern projects and assignments to Baxter colleagues and employees across different departments. Interns can highlight various elements of their overall internship experience, including skills they gained, initiatives they have spearheaded, reflections on how their internship impacted them as individuals, and ultimately present themselves as potential future Baxter employees.”
The expo’s format has also created an opportunity for employees to meet the interns and learn about projects, and it highlights the value and impact of the internship program to all employees across Baxter.
“Awareness and exposure is truly the ultimate goals of the expo,” Starks adds. “This is our third year doing the Intern Program Expo, and we have received great feedback from both our interns and the Baxter community. Internships are valuable to students because of the opportunity to network, and they provide an outlet for students to demonstrate their skills beyond just what’s indicated on their resumes. When interns feel like they have been given meaningful work and an opportunity to do work that matters, they will talk about it. This, in turn, becomes a great recruiting strategy for us when they return to campus.”
Starks says that once they return to campus, interns talk about their experiences and the exposure they received.
“They will get more out of their time with us if they feel like their work is valued and appreciated,” she says. “This Expo helps to demonstrate that we don’t just bring them here to do ‘busy work’ and that the work they are doing really contributes to the bottom-line profits for the organization. We are showing them how important they are as contributors to the organization, and that we value them as individuals and prospective future employees.”
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