The calendar may say fall, but we’re wrapping up our Epic Summer Series detailing our Intern Program in Los Angeles Structural. We’ve explored how we enhanced the intern experience, heard from interns in our 2022 program as well as interns who are now full-time employees, and learned how communication ties everything together. In our last and final entry, we’re going to discover the history of the LA-S Intern Program.
We’ve always had some form of an intern program, but it wasn’t as robust as our intern program today. Largely unstructured, no one knew what to do with the interns and no one was monitoring their success. The interns were bored, and we weren’t benefiting from them as part of our team.
In 2016, Mike Dygean created a more focused approach to the intern program on his team. He hired two summer interns and developed the Intern Design Project (IDP) to give the interns something to do when they didn’t have a task. “We needed something that was real, live engineering and something to judge their skills on,” he says.
8–10 WEEK INTERVIEW
When KPFF LA-S moved to Downtown Los Angeles in 2018, the intern program was refined further. We struggled to hire entry-level engineers, and those we did hire had a 50% turnover rate. Could we use our intern program as an 8–10 week interview to see if the interns were a good fit as full-time employees?
“That’s what I tell my interns,” Neil Bahen shares. “It’s a two-way interview for sure.”
“It’s our interview process for them, but it gives the person a deeper insight into what they would be doing as an Engineer,” Mike adds. “It’s them interviewing us. The interns appreciate that.”
This approach has proved successful: roughly two-thirds of our interns return either as repeat interns the following summer or as full-time employees.
During the pandemic, the intern program became more defined. While we were fully remote, we were able to have interns living in other geographic locations. But when it was time to return in-person, there was a need for further refinement.
Team leaders expressed concern about Juniors and even some Seniors joining our team. But Juniors are arguably the most essential interns. “Juniors go back to school with one year left to the same University we want to hire from, and they talk,” Mike explains. “Let’s see if we can get more people applying from these schools.”
And so far, it’s worked – the 2022 Summer Intern Class was the largest class to date with 20 interns!
To accommodate the younger engineers, we interviewed the team leaders and created a wish list. From this list, we developed the Crash Course Series to get engineers up-to-speed so they could jump into projects right away.
In addition to the crash courses, interns also had emotional intelligence, core strengths, and crucial conversations trainings, in addition to other summer activities throughout the office.
TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING?
Our intern program has evolved into a robust career training experience. As Jeanne Li covered in Epic Summer Part 1, our 2022 summer internship included design Crash Courses in topics such as steel and concrete, Entry Level Training seminars, an Intern Design Project, emotional intelligence training (Core Strengths, Crucial Conversations, DEI training), site visits, client meetings, and of course, real project work.
We may have gone too far last year. With a record size Intern Class and a robust learning schedule, the intern exit interviews showed many interns felt overwhelmed. While the 2023 Intern Program will have fewer trainings, they are not going away completely.
“We’re just sliding it into our Design Engineer training.” Neil shares. “As you’re transitioning in your career from intern to design engineer, there are even more trainings you’ll get from us as a full-time employee. At KPFF, the learning never stops.”
Mike adds, “Ultimately, we’re looking to fine-tune it so everyone has a beneficial summer.”
READY FOR AN EPIC SUMMER?
Are you interested in joining the KPFF LA Structural team for your internship in the Summer of 2023? Applications are now open, just click here to view and apply!
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