By Wanda Sova, AEM Executive Assistant

I learned a few weeks back that Fred Vieira was promoted to Director, International Exhibitions & Events and CONEXPO Latin America Show Director here at AEM. While Fred and I are not actually related, I’m experiencing a sort of "proud mom" moment. This is because I originally hired Fred as an intern in April of 2016, and I’m thrilled to witness his continued growth and success within the organization.

The formalization of AEM’s internship program, not coincidentally, aligns with the startup of the association’s I Make America initiative in the summer of 2011. I recall AEM President Dennis Slater coming back from a trip to our Washington, D.C. office and informing me that AEM was starting a grassroots advocacy program we were calling I Make America. I was to hire two interns for telephone outreach, and they were to explain the new program and garner support among AEM members.

Given this was July, most students were already well immersed in their summer internships. I had only two applicants, so those were the two interns I hired. Gratefully, one of these was Trish Schoof, a student Dennis had met at a mock interview at Carroll University (his alma mater) earlier in the year. Upon graduation, Trish was hired as Public Affairs Assistant, then promoted to coordinator, then manager. She later transferred to the Exhibitions department, where she is now Event Data Manager. More pseudo-proud-mom moments.

Thankfully, I now receive a lot more than two applications when posting internship opportunities at the universities in our local area. The program has grown significantly over the past eight years, and the word is out that AEM is a great place to intern. This spring, we have 10 interns working in the areas of sales, state government affairs, education content (the Thinking Forward thought leadership initiative and the CONEXPO-CON/AGG Tech Experience), HR, marketing, market information, PR/communications and membership.

AEM’s internship program enables us to use a pool of talent to complete projects that would otherwise be difficult, or even impossible, to accomplish. Interns assist with real-world, meaningful, project-based work with defined objectives. The students truly recognize and appreciate these opportunities. As one AEM intern stated, “I remember first viewing the job posting and noticing a promise to involve interns in real-world projects, and this was apparent from day one. I loved the opportunity to continually grow and explore new areas every single day.” AEM aims to have no more than 20 percent of their jobs be administrative – those tasks fall instead to our team of talented and dedicated administrative professionals (whom I also have the pleasure of leading).

InternsThere are a number of factors that I think make AEM’s internship program unique:

  • Due to the nature of our work, most AEM interns work year-round versus summers only.
  • Interns go through a formal onboarding/orientation process.
  • Interns receive formal performance appraisals and are eligible for year-end wage increases based on their performance rating.
  • Interns can transfer between departments, gaining exposure to other specialties within the organization. We keep in mind these are college students who may have not yet decided on a definitive career path.
  • Quarterly leadership lunches provide the opportunity for interns and a manager/director/VP to chat informally over lunch, share insights and get to know each other a little better.
  • Interns participate in AEM community service projects, wellness programs, staff training and our annual holiday party.
  • Interns resume review/coaching at end of their term.

In addition to being a learning opportunity for college students, AEM’s internship program also serves as an educational experience for coordinators or managers who may be new to supervising a direct report. New supervisors attend training to help make them more effective coaches and managers. Supervisors are encouraged to include interns in activities and events beyond their daily responsibilities to help the students see the bigger picture at AEM and our industry.

Though I may be the one who initially brings these individuals through AEM’s front door, these gifted young professionals are certainly the ones who prove their value, make a name for themselves and create their own opportunities. I’ll close by recognizing the staff members, in addition to Fred and Trish, who started as interns since the program’s inception in 2011. They are here for our members every day.

  • Sara Anderson, Sales Coordinator
  • Brianne Deja, Event Operations Coordinator
  • Jennifer Gallatin, International Marketing Coordinator
  • Joe Hanson, VIP Program Assistant
  • Maxx Lebiecki, Sales Account Executive
  • Patricia Rondon, Logistics Coordinator
  • Aaron Sova, Exhibitor Services Coordinator. Aaron is my stepson, so it's an actual proud mom moment.

If you or someone you know is a college student or recent grad interested in interning with AEM, please visit AEM Internships or contact AEM’s Wanda Sova at wsova@aem.org.

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