By Benjamin Thorpe, AEM Intern
The need to retain quality employees has grown extensively in recent years. With the technician gap and the introduction of social media, the hiring process and the development of those employees has dramatically changed. AEM, in an attempt to combat this changing hiring pool, has made a point of utilizing its internship program and the potential benefits that it brings to the workplace.
Headed by AEM Executive Assistant, Human Resources & Administrative Affairs Wanda Sova, the program has two purposes. Firstly, it means to seek out potential future employees by test-driving young workers. Not only does this allow the many departments to benefit from employing young minds, but it also sees how those minds might fit at AEM five to 10 years down the road. Secondly, the internship program helps to work against the ever-growing cultural distance between those entering the workforce and the equipment manufacturing industry. As America continues to promote the four-year degree lifestyle, AEM works to expose those younger workers to the benefits and intricacies of the construction and agricultural world.
Currently in the Milwaukee office, four different employees (interns and former interns) shared their thoughts on their time at AEM and how it impacted them. Among those interviewed were Jacqueline Silvis, AEM’s Marketing Intern; Mitchell Bauschka, AEM’s Membership Services & Product Management Intern; Brianne Deja, AEM’s Event Operations Coordinator; and Fred Vieira, Events Manager, Latin America.
Thorpe: What exactly did/do you do in your internship? When did you start?
Silvis: I am an intern in the marketing department, working on exhibitor engagement for the tradeshows. I worked on the CONEXPO-CON/AGG show and now I’m working on the ICUEE show.
Bauschka: I work for Paul Flemming in the Membership department. Right now I’m calling companies, members and prospect companies to invite them to our Thinking Forward events.
Deja: I started as a VIP Recruiter. There was another intern that was doing administrative support, and he quit about two weeks later. Then I took on more responsibility: recruiting for the VIP Program for CONEXPO-CON/AGG, and administrative support.
Vieira: I started out as the Global Business Development intern, and my primary responsibility was to be in the charge of Industry Advisor for Latin America. It was basically providing a macro analysis of the industry in the region.
Thorpe: What has your internship taught you, particularly in terms of hard skills and soft skills?
Silvis: One thing I’ve really been able to work on at AEM is networking just because you meet such a wide variety of different people who have different jobs. And it’s been really interesting to get to know them and talk with them about what they do, and I’ve really enjoyed that. In my job specifically, there’s been a need for communication skills, Excel and different technical skills.
Bauschka: This is the first time that I’ve been in a sales position. Being able to be on the phone and get your point across in a timely manner while being informative is something I’ve gotten much better at.
Deja: The reason they wanted me for this was that I used to work in a hospital, and I could handle high pressure. My basic skills were used, and here I learned about the industry, how to master Excel and event management. Phone recruitment, doing cold calls and warm calls were totally new to me. It really helped build my communication skills, because you’re constantly speaking with people.
Vieira: The culture of the office definitely helped me with soft skills and to feel confident to exercise my hard skills. The ability to be involved in projects where your opinion can have an impact, teamwork, integration of all levels of professionals working on the same thing, that helped with soft skills as well. It helped me to practice a lot of skills that I had before. There’s a lot of knowledgeable people in the office; with the culture and if you’re curious, it’s a great place for you to learn a lot.
Thorpe: What do you hope to take away from this job to your next job or back to school?
Silvis: I think the one thing I would take away from this is to put yourself out there and take a chance. As a freshman, I did not think that I would be able to land myself an internship, and especially when I’m not going to school for marketing and don’t have any experience in this industry. This whole experience has taught me to go for it even if you think chances are slim.
Bauschka: Definitely the connections that you make. Even with the board members here, and I think that’s another thing that’s different about the association. To be able to meet these successful, established people, being able to have those connections is almost priceless.
Thorpe: What should current interns focus on most in the workplace? Any tips for them?
Deja: I think it’s really important to try to talk to people who are beyond just your department. Just after talking, you realize that your job is connected to 50 other jobs. I think if you want to have a full understanding and really want to be able to pull out the benefits of having this internship, talk with people. Really find out what we do, because it’s a complex process.
Vieira: Find out if what you’re doing is what you like. Don’t be afraid if it’s not. Don’t think that you’re limited to your position. Be prepared for opportunities, because opportunities will appear. Be curious. And that’s not just for interns, I would say that to everyone. If you see a big picture, if you have a holistic mind, you can go really far.
Finally, Wanda Sova, spoke on the source of success in the internship program:
“I look for the right personality and the right enthusiasm versus someone who’s going to have the hard skills needed. Being an internship, it’s meant to be a learning experience,” said Sova.
With this in mind, it’s important that employers view internships as growing opportunities, chances to mold young minds into future full-time staff. In a market which holds fewer promises and more complications, often the long-term, more innovative solutions becomes the most secure.