Training Top 125 Best Practice: Van Meter, Inc.’s Internship Program

In an effort to fill positions that are targeted as a critical backfill need, the company created a powerful learning experience for college interns that builds confidence and knowledge and aims to result in the intern being hired upon his or her graduation from college.

One of Van Meter, Inc.’s critical organizational goals is an effective succession planning strategy. The wholesale distributor—whose primary service areas include electrical, lighting, datacomm, automation, and power transmission—knows that over the next 5 to 10 years, it will have many employees retire from the organization. To help address this issue, Van Meter developed an Internship Program as part of its recruiting strategy. In an effort to fill positions that are targeted as a critical backfill need, the company created a powerful learning experience for college interns that builds confidence and knowledge and potentially results in the intern being hired upon his or her graduation from college. 

Recruiting

Interns were specifically selected to support succession planning needs throughout the company. Van Meter’s Human Resources team and other employees attended career fairs at local colleges and universities. They used innovative solutions such as social media engagement and virtual reality (VR) branch simulations to attract candidates. All interns went through the typical employee hiring process. Each intern had a hiring manager who oversaw his or her overall experience and a “coach” in his or her department and location who provided day-to-day support and assistance. 

Onboarding

A calendar of events for the Internship Program was developed to ensure understanding of all programming and training. Interns attended a specialized Internship Kick-Off Training to learn what they needed for success and gained foundational knowledge about the organization. Over the course of their 10-week program, interns learned about Van Meter’s culture, the fundamentals of the industry, their specific job function, project management skills, and communications tools. Interns also utilized virtual meeting technology to enhance collaboration, and to receive guidance and support from Van Meter’s greater Organizational Effectiveness team. 

Project Work

A critical aspect of the Internship Program is allowing the team to learn about, experience, and implement project management skills. This project design was developed with the assistance of Van Meter’s Chief Organizational Effectiveness Officer and its Continuous Improvement team. The program was designed to challenge the interns to develop three days of learning that focused on Van Meter’s business and culture. Interns project managed the learning days by identifying leaders and employees from throughout the organization to create learning content that would be taught back to the intern team. Project Retrospectives, a key ingredient in a successful project, were used to analyze the project management process and develop improvements and solutions to be used for the 2019 Summer Internship Program. 

Key content learned included:

  • Branch, Department, and Operations training facilitated by Van Meter’s Chief Technology and Distribution Officer
  • Fundamentals of Electrical Distribution Sales taught by the Chief Growth Officer 
  • Financial Literacy instructed by the Chief Financial Officer
  • Communication and Presentation Skills training

The Experience 

All interns participated in: 

  • An immersive Kick-Off Training in their first week that provided a framework for collaboration and creative thinking
  • Bi-weekly virtual and in-person meetings to inspire collaboration and reinforce individual learning
  • Individual growth and development sessions with Van Meter’s CEO
  • Weekly learning assignments to help understand the fundamentals of Electrical Distribution 
  • Job shadow days and branch location visits with other employees throughout the organization
  • Goal setting with their coaches and managers, with evaluations at the midterm and conclusion of their experience
  • A final presentation of their learning experience to Van Meter leaders, employee-owners, and their families

Results

A leading business journal recognized Van Meter in its community as having the top internship program last year. Ultimately, the Internship Program was successful in two key ways: 

  • In 2018, Van Meter hired 27 percent of its interns on a full-time basis, backfilling critical job vacancies.
  • Some 90 percent of the interns indicated they would want to return to Van Meter.

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