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Forced to hire interns
2

Forced to hire interns

Forced to hire interns

(OP)
On several occasions, I have lamented that many companies won't hire students for internships, depriving them of the chance to see first-hand how engineering really works, and learn real-world problem-solving for their studies. It's usually a big win for the student. For the engineers willing to mentor there's a lot to be gained in honing a teaching skill. Also, having a clever person with low expectations available, I have often found mathematical and research tasks that suit them well that would take me a while to do. Even if they take 4x longer to do it, they still get the job done for me. And often an extra pair of hands is good, too. I've had almost universally positive encounters with the bright people we've chosen as interns. So right from day one working where I do, I have supported our policy to hire students in later years of engineering studies for 4 or 8 month internships.

Recently I have just discovered a new abuse of interns. Yet another reason why it's hard for well-meaning managers and supervisors to hire student interns.

Soon after hiring an engineering intern this summer, it seems that the company shareholders got wind of this, and now two "uninvited" junior engineers have been parachuted into our midst. As one of the mentors of the department, the time I can spend with our chosen intern just got cut by 1/3 because I how have to divide my training time between three. This wouldn't be so bad, but the two just parachuted in have some clear deficiencies.

The same thing happened a couple of years ago. The intern we hired was great, and then a month later we were forced to hire and manage an insolent snot. The first intern we hired ended up having a bad experience, despite how bright he was, because the snot was too distracting to me and the other mentors. Now that it's happened again, it looks like a trend, and if we want the nepotism to stop, we have to stop hiring student interns. A step backward for everyone.

I guess I just wanted to kvetch about this. I'm just going to deal with the situation, somehow. If any of you are planning to hire an intern, you might want to consider this risk and prepare accordingly to prevent it happening.

RE: Forced to hire interns

All of the geotech / civil companies I've worked at have tried to make a business out of hiring interns and grads and subbing them in for intermediate staff, from 10 man shops to specialist dam engineering firms to possibly the consulting firm with the largest geotech group in the world. Caveat being in geotech we have alot of borderline labour type jobs (concrete testing, running an density gauge, lab work, etc) that we can keep them useful on.

Sounds like you are a victim of your own success on the intern front

RE: Forced to hire interns

It's disappointing, for sure, but part of the issue is that your management is not doing their jobs; they're more interested in currying favor from the shareholders rather than protecting the future of the company that they are supposedly responsible for.

Not that this is necessarily surprising, unfortunately; management are much like your totality of interns, some are shining, some venal. One of the most despicable managers I've ever met was admirable for his clarity of thought; his actions clearly subverted the future of our division for his own personal future. He came into our division as the 9th general manager in 4 years and he clearly understood his 6-month expiration date that required him to turn a profit for a sufficiently long enough time, and he would then be promoted to go on to bigger and better hatchet jobs. flame

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

RE: Forced to hire interns

Eh, hiring anyone including engineers can be hit and miss in terms of quality, often bc the hiring managers haven't worked in low-level design engineering for years and haven't kept up with modern tools and methods.

I am assigned an intern or three most every summer, some of which continue on for long-term employment during and after their degree is complete. This summer I had a freshman and a senior intern simultaneously, both in their first internship. I never have issues keeping interns busy with a minimum of input on my part and these were no exceptions. There was the expected difference in knowledge and ability, but I have plenty of clerical work to offload for less experienced students so everybody stays busy. I also find those students helpful as another set of eyes in the design and print review process. 10 mins teaching them how to open, rotate, section, and measure models wont make them a modeling expert, but they can then help QC and do surprisingly good at it. The same goes for prints, they're far from experts but help filter easier questions and communicate intent between myself, drafties, and suppliers. The only real issues I ever struggle with are 1. overconfident interns doing too much without asking and 2. getting other employees to take interns' work/requests seriously, but both are pretty rare. My all-time favorite/best intern was a great example of the second. He interned after finishing a physics BS, while working on a physics MS. Not having an engineering degree few took him seriously at first, then he sped through our online courses in 3d modeling and read a few relevant engineering texts, "not difficult" for a physics major. Inside of six months he was equal or better than most of the junior engineers and eventually hired on full time as an engineer.

Familial nepotism definitely is a struggle but thankfully rare IME. Personally I have seen more of it in management than in the lower levels. Far more common than familial nepotism tho is what I call "university nepotism," where managers hire strictly from their alma mater. I have sat in quite a few hiring review meetings where managers have admitted to it and it usually leads to second-rate candidates being chosen, but yea, ra-ra go school & sports!

RE: Forced to hire interns

I recently saw the end of an intern's summer employment at my customer's site (I work on site)... he was a complete and utter tragedy from day 2. In the 3.5 months he worked there, he managed to not fall asleep a whopping 5 days. I estimate he was getting a solid 2 hours of sleep in every day, and then a solid two hours plus of TV watching once he realized they had streaming TV shows available on the local network. He didn't really learn anything useful, despite our best efforts, and we just tossed everything he created (which wasn't much, mind you) after all was said and done.

The kicker? He was (is!) part of a scholarship program, so not only does he get his schooling paid for, he has a local apartment and food stipend paid for during his times at "work", and he makes a salary. Despite being busted by management multiple times with his head on his desk the worst he got was a poor review at the end, and he won't be kicked out of the program for that. I know kids who would give their left arm to be in such a program (and would do VERY well), but with no penalties for being less than useless, what incentive is there for him to do better? SMDH...

Dan - Owner
http://www.Hi-TecDesigns.com

RE: Forced to hire interns

Nepotism in hiring is endemic, but nepotism in hiring INTERNS is off the charts. It's seen by many as totally acceptable.

I've been hiring co-op students (paid interns) for 15 yrs. Nobody gets parachuted into the department. Everybody, including children of senior management, gets vetted according to the same process and has to meet a minimum standard.

We also very much like 4 month internships. You don't want people to become part of the furniture and for the nepotism to extend to a permanent hire. That's a recipe for a dysfunctional group, fast.

(www.spitfireresearch.com)

RE: Forced to hire interns

Given that hiring engineers with a track record is something of a gamble, hiring interns with no track record must be even more of a gamble. Over the years we've had a few useless ones, and a lot of good ones. On balance, given that our job was mostly modifying cars, testing them, and analysing the data, and psuhing for production mods, our department was a fun place to work for an intern. Hilariously a very senior manager (now) who started as an intern was not hired at graduation, until the engineers all protested and he was given an offer.

Cheers

Greg Locock


New here? Try reading these, they might help FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies http://eng-tips.com/market.cfm?

RE: Forced to hire interns

While this was back in the late 60's, I worked as a summer 'intern' while I was in engineering school. I worked there multiple summers and upon graduation I was offered a very nice position since they already knew me and I knew them. I also avoided having to go through a probationary period and they even 'credited' me with all of the months that I had interned, in essence pushing back my 'hire date' thus giving me additional seniority the day I started to work full time.

John R. Baker, P.E. (ret)
EX-'Product Evangelist'
Irvine, CA
Siemens PLM:
UG/NX Museum:

The secret of life is not finding someone to live with
It's finding someone you can't live without

RE: Forced to hire interns

(OP)
Thanks for the support, everyone.

I've been thinking about this since writing yesterday (in a cloud of frustration over one of the nepotees failing an elementary task that I had already walked him through).

I must remind myself to remember my OWN internship experiences - one of which was made possible only because of a relative of mine. It was my first time working in an office, I only had one year of university credit done, 17 years old, and to be honest I really didn't fit in socially. I was given a thorough interview before being hired and they put me with a graphic design group. My computer skills were sharp enough that I could do anything they gave me on a Sun Microsystems workstation, which was cool. But I certainly didn't have an "eye" for processing graphics at that time. I doubt I made a fantastic impression on them, but it certainly had a constructive impact on me. There were excellent mentors there.

Anyway, reflecting on my own experience leads me to mollify my pride somewhat. All but the very worst interns (I feel for you Dan) will learn some lessons.

RE: Forced to hire interns

There have been a few nepotism award winners I wish would have been asleep the entire time. Actually, make that all of them.

RE: Forced to hire interns

It is sad that the true value that exists in an intern program gets sapped by nepotism. While school teaches you individual courses, internship is where your learn how they work together to produce a real customer needed product.

I was given a nepotism hire that not only performed poorly, he constantly slowed down the others so he did not look so bad. When I told my boss I would rather work one person short than have him on the team, but boss got mad at the fact he hired the sorry son of a good client. I did not realize it, but the last 2 teams this guy was put on came to the boss and said the exact same thing, "they would rather work one person short than have him on the team."

RE: Forced to hire interns

Hah, forgot this one until now...

Back when I was working on my Bachelors, I was working as the (sole) draftsman for a local company that did tower/airwave surveys (if you were putting in a radio tower, changing frequency/power, etc., we did the grunt work for determining if it was within regulations). After a couple of years, I was considered the senior draftsman and had a couple of guys working under me. This was my first introduction to "management", and I've regretted every management position I've been forced into since wink

One guy was a real time-waster... anything he could think of to draw out the assignment, he would. One day, our secretary (the boss's wife) caught him just lounging in the meeting room, swiping the correction tape (the handheld reels of correction "fluid" on a piece of tape) over a blank sheet of paper, over and over again. Nothing needed correction (it was blank!), but he was going through reel after reel of the stuff... couldn't offer a reason why. A few weeks later, one of the engineers noticed a fat stack of our C-sized drafting vellum sitting off to the side. Later that day he noticed the stack was gone, but there was now a roll of it semi-hidden behind some file cabinets. This guy just happened to bring in some thick drafting tubes with him that day... empty, of course. Somehow that roll of C-paper found it's way into one of his tubes... but he didn't know how. Luckily, it didn't make it out of the office. I don't think that guy lasted more than a few months. Not an intern, but we were too small to have one of those, just hiring people and crossing our fingers.

But then we hired a guy with no practical experience, but "he had a CAD class in school!" Turns out he was a client's son. Yep, you know where this is going. What really chapped my hide was he was hired for a much higher per-hour cost than I was being paid. The reason? "He doesn't want to live with roommates, so he needs more money to afford the apartment." The guy was useless. He quit a couple of months in, and I followed suit a couple of months after... I had had enough of that BS. Worked for them for several years, but it was obvious the forward-thinking was anything but...

Dan - Owner
http://www.Hi-TecDesigns.com

RE: Forced to hire interns

We hired a layout designer that was supposedly a hotshot, and for a few weeks, it seemed to be the case; after a month or so, he started showing up later and later, say, around 10 am, head to lunch around 11-ish, come back around 2-ish and call it a day around 4. Luckily for us, those were the days when you could still summarily walk someone out the same day.

Internships are, these days, extended job interviews, so we try to make the most it; we give them meaty assignments, and if they pan out, they get job offers at the other end. Most large tech companies like FAANG make full use of those interns specifically for that purpose; note that it's not even necessarily cheap labor, the last I heard Amazon's interns were making about $8k/mth and Facebook's were making even more.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

RE: Forced to hire interns

(OP)
It's such a contrast to the stellar interns I've worked with.

One intern showed up with virtually no mechanical skills, but I taught him some welding and he was able to assemble a load-test fixture that is now used in the manufacturing shop.

Another intern was there with just the right ideas at the right time while I was managing a project with subcontractors doing CFD analysis. The experts (being paid much more than her) were clearly churning out garbage. She pointed at a few spots in their work, suggested a better turbulence model, and "presto" the experts fixed their model.

These ones were, unfortunately for me, too good - they were scooped by much cooler companies.

RE: Forced to hire interns

Our culture has not been a meritocracy for a long time now. This is one of the many results of that.

RE: Forced to hire interns

@Joe Moore: a lot of what people consider to be "merit" is a result of entrenched privilege. People like to imagine that blind luck, most notably who you "chose" as parents, determines much of what we consider to be "merit". We just want the world to be fairer and more just than it really is, because that way we feel that not only do we deserve what we got largely as a result of luck, but also that the misfortune of others is largely their own fault rather than a largely the result of the flipside of the same luck.

(www.spitfireresearch.com)

RE: Forced to hire interns

Quote (This was my first introduction to "management", and I've regretted every management position I've been forced into since)


I've managed to avoid management for 50 years, and I'm much happier for it, I think.

Rather than think climate change and the corona virus as science, think of it as the wrath of God. Feel any better?

-Dik

RE: Forced to hire interns

I only had the title of manager (in the sense of being responsible for a group of individuals and their contributions to the organization) for 17 months. During that time I hired people, promoted people and fired people, so I guess I did it all, but I never got the 'T-Shirt' winky smile

Note that after my stint as a 'manager', I worked as a 'Product Manager' for the next 10 years or so. In that position I was responsible for a product instead of people. Of course, I then had the task of getting other people's people to do my bidding, but at least I never had to fire anyone.

John R. Baker, P.E. (ret)
Irvine, CA
Siemens PLM:
UG/NX Museum:

The secret of life is not finding someone to live with
It's finding someone you can't live without

RE: Forced to hire interns

Quote:

Our culture has not been a meritocracy for a long time now. This is one of the many results of that.

Unfortunately older folks and unions demand a concept called “seniority,” whereas they are last on the list of potential layoffs, get to choose what they do/don’t including learning new technology, and management ignores any sort of performance metrics on personnel reviews. In exchange, management gets a devout group of supporters for the current regime’s mediocrity and hopes the seniors will also provide the second novel idea of their career prior to retirement.

RE: Forced to hire interns

(OP)
A final comment on this, from me. The involuntary part of the internship is over. The end result is that we're happy to see one of these interns go, but one of these interns may in fact prove to be valuable. Perhaps the second saw the writing on the wall (or had it explained to him) and decided he actually wants to work for us (not what he told me when I first met him).

I've spoken to my boss and it turns out he had prepared for this by "firewalling" their salaries and performance metrics from the department as a whole. This gained him some additional latitude to decide if we wanted to keep them, and also relieved him of exceptional superviory duties. Clever guy. Something y'all might want to try, if you find yourselves in this situation.

We will be more cautious about hiring interns in the future, but I don't believe my boss has totally soured to the idea.

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