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Intellicom technician, Lance Satur, featured in Kearney Hub article about internship opportunities

publish date: March 16, 2014

Invaluable Internships
Area companies invest heavily in their student interns in the hopes of not only training them, but keeping them

By Mary Jane Skala, Hub Staff Writer

KEARNEY — Last spring, Lance Satur had just begun an internship at Intellicom at 1700 Second Ave. when he had to walk across the roof of a greenhouse 40 feet in the air to help install a wireless system.

He mastered that and a lot more during his internship. He also dealt with customers, strung cable, installed and configured security cameras and did wireless Internet installation. “I’ve overcome my fear of heights doing this, too,” he said.

A senior at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, Satur will begin a job at Intellicom after he gets his bachelor of science degree in information networking and telecommunications in May. “This internship confirmed that this is what I was to do,” Satur, 23, a native of Gering, said.

That is why internships are valuable, Bryan Kuntz, vice president of operations at Intellicom, said Tuesday. He was one of six panelists at Internship 101, a program sponsored by AIM at the Kearney Public Library.

“Whoever came up with the internship idea was a genius,” another panelist, Denise Jensen, said. She is the human resources manager at Royal Engineered Composites in Minden.

The panel included three professionals from businesses and three from the education world — two from UNK and one from Central Community College.

Besides Kuntz and Jensen, they included Janice Woods, director of business internships and experiential learning at the College of Business and Technology at the University of Nebraska at Kearney; Brenda Jochum, internship director of telecommunications management, industrial distribution and construction management programs at the University of Nebraska at Kearney’s Department of Industrial Technology; Kyle Sterner, head of cooperative extension programs at Central Community College in Grand Island and Hastings, and Jamie Banzhaf, human resources manager and college recruiting specialist at The Buckle at 2407 W. 24th St.

The moderator was Lisa Karnatz, regional relationship manager for Central Nebraska AIM at 518 W. 11th St. AIM is a non-profit organization that promotes technology and, among other things, aims to link graduate and working professionals with internships and careers.

“We look for high-quality internships,” Woods said, leading off the program. “We are not looking to replace a full-time employee at a business; we want an internship to provide an overall perspective. It’s an extension of the classroom,” she said.

About 40 percent of UNK’s business students do an internship between their junior and senior years, putting in at least 200 hours during a 12-week internship, she said.

Jochum said nearly all interns are paid because of tightening government rules, adding that an internship is not a static desk position.

“Kids are doing this as part of their academic program,” she told the audience of about 20 people. “Let them see what managers do. Give them time in the sales department. Let them spend a day with the president and CEO. If they are in an industrial distribution center, they need to see sales and management.”

Sterner currently oversees about 50 students who are doing internships. “We have three objectives: what are they learning? How are they learning it? When the internship is over, how do we know it’s been learned?” he said. An internship “has to go beyond a current job. It is learning through real-life experience.”

Kuntz said internships allow businesses to find and groom quality employees and “try before you buy.”

“It’s hard to find quality people today. If they’re any good, they’ve probably already got a job, so hiring new employees can be a risky proposition,” he said.

Eight of Intellicom’s 28 current employees started as interns. Intellicom sells, installs and maintains both hardware and software. Intellicom prefers 480-hour internships over a three-month, 40-hour-a-week period like the one Satur had. “We give interns meaningful, diverse tasks. We get to learn a lot about the student during that time,” Kuntz said.

Intellicom has learned a lot about hiring, too, especially in the tight Kearney job market. “We found that kids would go elsewhere unless we made a job offer. We’re now good about making it clear we want them to stick around,” Kuntz said.

Jensen, recalling her own internship (“I didn’t even get paid. It wasn’t fun,”) is now on the other side of the process, helping her company to “test the water” with interns before hiring them. Internships teach students about the company, providing valuable foundation for their future there. “We’re all about creating a promotable workforce,” she said. “We like to promote from within.” REC internships also show students that there are excellent professional opportunities in central Nebraska, Jensen said.

Another benefit: All Royal interns, along with full-time employees who take classes, are reimbursed 100 percent of their tuition if they earn an A or a B in college classes.

The Buckle’s internship program places 100 students around the country in positions ranging from corporate work to retail, Banzhaf said. The Buckle prefers to work with sophomores and juniors. “We start them a bit younger than other companies,” she said. “We are out to teach students that this is not the mall.”

In-store interns select the department they want to work in, such as denim, shoes or accessories, and are guided by both the store manager and a mentor. Banzhaf tells interns that the biggest part of an internship is building relationships.

“We educate our store managers to give a great experience. If manager doesn’t take this role seriously, this hurts the program,” she said.

Timing is critical, too. Spring interns work from January through May. Summer interns work from June 1 until Sept. 5 so they can work the often-hectic back-to-school sales period. Fall internships run from September to January and include the Christmas season. “Students don’t get a realistic picture of The Buckle if they quit before these busy periods,” she said.

“Everyone is different. We try to make our program fit each student,” Banzhaf added.

Jensen said Royal also requires its interns to staff the company’s booths at college career fairs. “They talk to students and really tell them what it’s all about. They are excellent,” Jensen said.

Woods advises students to stay at their first professional jobs for at least one year to get a true feel for the position. “Don’t give up at the first frustration and get a new job,” she stressed.

Jochum said a national survey showed that 50 percent of students take jobs after graduation at companies where they interned. She compared internship to always ordering a favorite dish at a restaurant: “You go back to doing what you liked,” she said.

She also requires interns to have a LinkedIn account so she can follow students’ careers after they graduate.

Added Kuntz, “A good internship lays the groundwork for the pipeline of future workers.”
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