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andrew brandenburg objective
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Local business journalist with experience in reporting, writing, copy editing and editorial planning and management, seeking an opportunity to work with a progressive and forward-thinking company and impact the local community.
journalism experience Managing Editor April 2010 – March 2011 Business Black Box, ShowCase Publishing, Greenville, SC » Aided in editorial planning for each issue; assigned articles to and consulted with freelance writers; copy edited each issue; managed and edited articles for online edition, wrote department and feature pieces, as well as other content for online and print editions; represented the publication at various business events Editorial Assistant January 2009 – March 2010 Business Black Box, ShowCase Publishing, Greenville, SC » Wrote department pieces, sidebars and other materials for print and online publications; conducted interviews; researched data and checked facts; coordinated interviews and photo shoots; developed article and overall publication directions with the editor-in-chief; performed various managerial and secretarial tasks for the editor Intern June 2008 – August 2008 Human Events, Eagle Publishing, Washington, DC » Reported and researched; wrote articles; helped brainstorm and develop article ideas; fact-checked; transcribed interviews; conducted interviews; acquired photos; worked on the publication’s web site manager posting articles, entering data and monitoring reader comments; provided help wherever needed Editor-in-Chief Fall 2008 – Spring 2009 The Collegian, Bob Jones University, Greenville, SC » Planned articles, assignments, photo, graphics and editorial direction for every issue; offered guidance in reporting as well as focus and tone for articles; wrote editorial and opinion pieces; managed the entire staff; oversaw all aspects of the publication from planning through production; designed the publication’s layout; represented the staff before school administration; made all final judgments including those related to articles, photos, layout and style Copy Editor Fall 2007 – Spring 2008 The Collegian, Bob Jones University, Greenville, SC » Edited copy for all articles, columns, editorials and sports pieces; wrote columns, editorial and opinion pieces; wrote headlines and cutlines; assisted the editor wherever in editorial planning; helped writers develop article ideas and stronger writing skills; helped brainstorm and develop article ideas
education Bob Jones University, Greenville, SC May 2009 B.A. Print Journalism, English Minor Major GPA: 3.22 Georgetown University, Washington, DC August 2008 The Fund for American Studies Institute on Political Journalism
computer skills » Proﬁcient in Adobe InDesign, Internet web site management and Microsoft Word, Excel, Access and Outlook » Experienced in Adobe Photoshop and InCopy
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andrew brandenburg professional writer & editor
magazine feature article
the railroad renaissance
The acquisition is Buffett’s “bet on the country.”
Business Black Box
But a $44 billion gamble based solely on chance assumes a lot. So what has Buffett seen that the rest of the world needs to catch up on? With the federal government feeding tax dollars into the highways, airports and sea ports, how will the privatized rail industry affect the future of this nation?
By Andrew Brandenburg
Business Black Box
R D Regaining
PLAYING FIELDS PUBLIC PRESENCE One of the largest differentiations most people need to make when considering the rail industry is passenger rail versus freight— they’re handled through different companies. While companies like Amtrak and city transit systems, like Chicago’s CTA and Washington, D.C.’s, Metro Rail, transport people from point A to point B, freight rail lines fall into three different classes. “You have to look at the rail industry in two separate ways and the majority of Americans, right now, when they look at the industry think of passenger rail—they think Amtrak, they think ‘moving people,’” Sarah Lynne Howie, director of operations for Rail Training & Consulting, Inc., explains. “But the greatest need for rail really has to do with freight, in my opinion.” As of September 10, 2009, the United States currently has four transcontinental railroads categorized as Class I, according to the Association of American Railroads—these lines consist of rail companies with a 2008 operating revenue of $401.4 million or more (these numbers fluctuate based on inflation).These main Class I rail companies consist of Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF), Union Pacific (UP), Norfolk South (NS) and CSX Transportation Following those, Class II railways operate on revenues below that of Class I’s but exceeding $20.5 million, and Class III’s operate on revenues below $20 million. Class I railroads operate on a national level, while Class II do so on a regional, and Class III on a local.
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We touch almost anything American consumers have purchased in one way or another.
For years now, the railroad industry has keyed in on specific sectors of the shipping industry, primarily raw materials, grains, coal and hazmat materials. “Raw materials and automotive,” Howie says. “With the downturn of the economy, the initial hit was on moving cars, moving steel and probably other building materials like pulp wood, but grain has always stayed relatively constant depending on where you are. Raw materials are primarily what you’re going to see.” While many goods shipped in the U.S. fall along the lines of raw materials, Gary Sease, spokesman for CSX Transportation, headquarted in Jascksonville, Fla., is quick to note that the diversity of products shipped by rail is quite large. One way trains take part in this is through soliciting business with large retail providers. “There are a lot of commodities that are best-suited for railroad move—big bulk products,” Sease says. “To gain business from big box retailers—like Wal-Mart, Target and express shippers like UPS—you have to meet certain performance standards and actively pursue business with them. “We touch almost anything American consumers have purchased in one way or another,” he continues. Q2 2010
Part of the intrigue of the railway industry emanates from the fact that it has historically fallen into a behind-the-scenes role in the goods transportation industry. “Our industry has largely been invisible to Americans in the past, and we do some advertising now to help people see the value we provide, but it’s amazing to see when people understand,” Sease says. “They start to have a new appreciation for what we do and what they have.” But beyond a warm feeling inside, the railway industry promotes local and international shipping through several means. One of the main ways they’re able to do so due to the fact that much of their business is eco-friendly. Railroads are able to move one ton of freight an average of 423 miles on a single gallon of diesel fuel. According to the Association of American Railroads, the average rail rates for U.S. freight—based on revenue per ton-mile—have fallen 49 percent from 1981 to 2008, across geographical regions and for nearly every commodity. In addition to that, “U.S. freight railroads are the most affordable in the world,” according to the AAR. “According to World Bank data, average U.S. freight rail rates are half those in China and Japan, and 50 to 75 percent below those in major European countries.” “We’ve been around since the early 1800s,” Sease says. “We are experiencing a railroad renaissance in the fact that the country is beginning to recognizing the railroads again. We have an industry that’s incredibly fuel-efficient.” And it’s through this renaissance that the logistics of shipping bulk freight in the U.S. will evolve in future. “The way this country is continuing to grow, there’s only so much land; there’s a fight for that land, so it’s either build more roads and put heavy trucks on them and make our travel and logistics very inefficient, or use the rail lines that are already out there,” Howie explains. However, that’s not to imply that rail will be overtaking or boxing out the trucking industry. Rather, transportation logistics are beginning to realign in search of a better-suited balance that complements both industries, as well as the country. “As our population grows, our highways are crowded, and people are seeing the value of rail,” Sease says. “Highway infrastructure is hard for public entities to maintain, and there’s little ability to build more lanes. Capacity will be reached, and we’re going to need a place for freight to move alternatively. A lot of truckers are partnering with railroads to move containers of fright on railroads, and the trucking companies provide the shorter haul at the end of the move.” Intermodal transportation is a big deal for the railroad industry. Instead of it being an “all or nothing” situation for both the trucking and rail industries, this form of transportation offers both the opportunity to work together. Where railroads can go, they can transport fright for cheaper and more quickly, in general. Once reaching a specific area, though, they’re able to pass on that freight to trucks who are, in turn, able to finish transporting those goods to their final destination. In addition to continental transportation, many people don’t consider (or realize) the potential for railroads to play a part in
Determining UPSTATE RELEVANCE
On the grand scale, the railroad industry has the potential to streamline and revolutionize the way the business of shipping is carried out in the U.S. But how does national potential filter down to Upstate relevance? Will it change what professionals here see day to day? “When you look at the short line rails especially, these guys are members of the community,” says Dave Whorton, manager of communications and data for the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association (ASLRRA). “Some of them are little ‘mom and pop’ railways, and every mile they run is in their area. Big players rely on these railroads to get their goods to the final destinations and pick up outgoing goods, so it’s important for these railroads to have a good relationship with their local area.” That being said, it’s absolutely essential for large and small railways to work in conjunction to ensure the success of each other. “Many short line railroads have interchange service agreements
We are experiencing a railroad renaissance in the fact that the country is beginning to recognizing the railroads again. We have an industry that’s incredibly fuel-efficient.
As our population grows, our highways are crowded, and people are seeing the value of rail.
development,” she continues. “There always have been short lines who are willing to diversify their business locally—they’re working very closely with their economic development representatives, saying that they want to be included.” Whorton referenced a local railway, Greenville and Western Railway, as a prime example of success with good economic development for a short line company. “They have a good track record working with their economic development organizations,” he says. “They have industrial development sites in that area and have a working relationship with the local economic development authorities to make sure they’re getting populated by the right businesses.” “When we purchased the railroad people thought we were nuts,” says Steven Hawkins, president of Western Carolina Railway Service Corporation. “I saw the potential; not to mention that “no” is motivating for me.” Greenville & Western Railway Company, LLC (GRLW), is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Western Carolina Railway Service Corporation, which owns and operates 12.74 miles of rail line in Anderson County, S.C. When the need for ethanol in the fuel industry arose, Hawkins saw an incredible opportunity for the rail industry. “Long story short, from my exposure in consulting I saw potential because Belton is where fuel is being blended,” Hawkins explains. “It only makes sense that if they can unload ethanol on location rather than offsite and trucking it in.” And that’s where the opportunity surfaced. Hawkins made investments in rail and land and set his plan in motion. His initial rail purchase took place more than three years ago now, and in reply to the naysayers, his business has much to show. GRLW has received the “Jake Award With Distinction” for the past three years from the ASLRRA for having no reportable injuries each year. In addition, GRLW was honored with the ASLRRA 2010 Marketing Award. The success of Hawkins and his business bring more to the community than local pride and recognition. Due to Hawkin’s research prior to his purchases, he was able to invest in an area that Q2 2010
Business Black Box
with the Class I’s they connect with,” Whorton says. “These agreements state what each party is responsible for when cars change tracks. Every one of the Class I’s has a short line department that makes sure relations are going well with their short line partners, and since so much of the work involves interchange with smaller railroads, you might say that’s their primary job.” Whorton also explains how expanding rail coverage in an area—even short lines—is beneficial to the economy. “One of the main points we’ve been pushing is that one railroad job translates to 4.5 extra jobs in the community—specifically in industrial development sites as liaisons between the community and the railroad,” he explains. “Basically, their impetus is great because they’re part of the community. If things are going well, they hear about it; if not, they hear about that as well.”
The local benefits of railways exceed creating new jobs and facilitating shipments for local business. Through strategic economic development, properly grown rail systems can actually draw and grow new local business. “When businesses relocate, they look for three things in an industrial park: access to interstate, rail and water,” Howie says. “Forward-thinking railroads have done a good job of bringing in clientele, but it’s not like a railway can just reach out to a business and say, ‘Hey, you, we want to transport your goods.’” The key lies in building a trade hub capable of supporting not only a diversity of transportation, but also a myriad of businesses. “The success and growth of the railroad industry is tied to economic
transcontinental shipping. By hauling freight to and from ports, the rail industry is opened up to and able to take part in transporting freight all over the world. BNSF conducts business with China, through L.A. ports, which is then connected with railways overseas.
Types of Freight
CARRIED FOR THE YEAR 2008 Gross Revnue**
Coal Chemicals & allied prod. Farm products Non-metallic minerals Misc. mixed shipments* Food & kindred products Metallic ores Metals & products Waste & scrap materials Stone, clay & glass prod. Petroleum & coke Pulp, paper & allied prod. Lumber & wood products Motor vehicles & equip. All other commodities
878,569 176,108 155,950 132,352 120,278 105,071 59,986 54,420 48,848 45,275 44,690 34,130 30,856 24,791 22,442
45.4 % 9.1 8.1 6.8 6.2 5.4 3.1 2.8 2.5 2.3 2.3 1.8 1.6 1.3 1.2
$14,200 7,717 5,403 1,749 8,184 4,610 637 2,664 1,415 1,636 1,867 2,228 1,684 3,623 2,895
23.5 % 12.8 8.9 2.9 3.5 7.6 1.1 4.4 2.3 2.7 3.1 3.7 2.8 6.0 4.8
* Miscellaneous mixed shipments (STCC 46) is almost all intermodal traffic. Some intermodal traffic is also included in commodity-specific categories. STCC 46 accounts for over two thirds of intermodal tonnage ** Gross Revenue is not adjusted for absorption (incentive rebates etc.) or correction
Business Black Box
Statistics provided by the Association of American Railroads.
could support his industry and benefit from it. “[The community has seen] the trickle down effect of jobs being created at facilities, and additional truck-driving jobs as ethanol comes here,” he says. “It’s driving job-creation in the local economy rather than supporting other economies.” He continues by explaining how community awareness is all about perspective. “Don’t put your blinders on, and look at what’s in front of you—look at the impact your job is having around you,” he says. “I’m supporting the economy not only through the taxes I pay, but also through the jobs I help create and economic development made.” Looking toward the future, Hawkins, a Taylors native, sees the potential for more local growth not only for his business, but also for the local economy. “I see more growth in the future,” he says. “I believe the Piedmont region is the next industrial growth region. Textiles are gone, so we have available land and work force, lower taxation, and great potential for job growth.” Another example of the rail industry’s involvement in economic development is South Carolina Public Railways (SCPR), which “was created for the purpose of economic development in 1972
When we purchased the railroad people thought we were nuts. I saw the potential.
RAILROADS Carolina Southern Railway Conway, S.C. Miles of Track: 85
Carolina Piedmont Railroad Laurens, S.C. Miles of Track: 34
East Cooper & Berkeley Railroad Huger, S.C. Miles of Track: 17
Greenville & Western Railway Anderson, S.C. Miles of Track: 13
Hampton & Branchville Railroad Company Hampton, S.C. Miles of Track: 40
Lancaster & Chester Railroad Company Lancaster, S.C. Miles of Track: 60
Pee Dee River Railway Bennettsville, S.C. Miles of Track: 20
Pickens Railway Pickens, S.C. Miles of Track: 37
Port Terminal Railroad North Charleston, S.C. Miles of Track: 10
Port Utilities Commission Charleston, S.C. Miles of Track: 10
South Carolina Central Railway Company Hartsville, S.C. Miles of Track: 90
Waccamaw Coast Line Railroad Conway, S.C. Miles of Track: 14
CSX (Class I)
Jacksonville, Fla. Miles in S.C.: 1,700
Business Black Box
as Amoco Chemical was looking to locate a plant in Berkeley County,” says Jeff McWhorter, president and CEO of SCPR. “They had a requirement for rail service and the closest rail line was 15 miles away. The carrier, CSX, was not agreeable to build the 15 mile connection to Amoco, so the South Carolina Public Railways Commission was created by the legislature to build and operate the rail line needed to connect Amoco to the CSX rail line at Cordesville.” Following that first project, SCPR has worked to facilitate economic development in the state. “Since our creation, we have actively participated in economic development projects throughout the state that have a rail component,” McWhorter says. “Such projects have included Amoco Chemicals, Nucor, BMW, Michelin Tire, and Bridgestone to name a few. We also work very closely with the South Carolina State Port Authority to attract interstate commerce and facilitate the movement of that commerce through our port as we handle all rail switching operations within the Port of Charleston.” SCPR’s work in the area of economic development can take on varying levels of involvement, depending on the project. “Whenever a prospect who has a need for rail service comes to South Carolina through the Department of Commerce or the Port, we usually become involved at the very least as consultants regarding rail issues, or to facilitate service design with our Class I partners (Norfolk Southern and CSX), or to build and operate a railroad to provide a connection to NS or CSX,” WcWhorter explains. Encouraging for our state, involvement in economic development is pushing progressive areas in the right direction
Statistics provided by The South Carolina Association of Railroads. Q2 2010
and building business in regions that can, in turn, support business through comprehensive and cost-efficient transportation options. “Our involvement has been instrumental in getting companies to locate in South Carolina by providing the unique services that we do in facilitating connections to the Class I carriers,” McWhorter says. “The result has been new investment, jobs, and overall economic viability for our state. We have played important roles with projects that have resulted in historical and record-setting investments in South Carolina.” The recent success for the rail industry in not only the country, but the Upstate specifically, while great in its own regard, seems to be only a precursor to where the industry is headed. “There
The challenge is to recruit new people into our industry. Even though we’re an old industrial industry, there’s a lot of technology and a lot of rewarding, fulfilling careers.
has been a dramatic resurgence in rail over the past few years,” McWhorter says. “It began with the high gasoline prices we were experiencing then and it is continuing now because it makes good economic sense, and it is environmentally friendly to utilize rail.”
Business Black Box
Looking toward the future, the rail industry has massive potential to revolutionize the freight industry in the U.S. and the Upstate but faces some challenges as well. Within the near future, one major change the rail industry will experience is a massive shift in workforce. “There’s an estimate that 60 percent of the railroad industry is set to retire in the next five to 10 years, so you’re seeing a lot of that old-school industry going away,” Howie explains. Sease explains why this is the case. “The reason that so many people are going to be retiring has been that for years, the railroads were struggling a bit financially so we weren’t hiring people at a rate that kept a steady supply of new employees,” he says. “The challenge is to recruit new people into our industry. Even though we’re an old industrial industry, there’s a lot of technology and a lot of rewarding, fulfilling careers.”
“If the industry doesn’t move forward, it’s not going to be able to handle the mass exodus we’re getting ready to see from a personnel standpoint,” Howie continues. “When 60 percent of your workforce is gone, if you don’t change your way of thinking when hiring Generation X and Y employees, you’re not going to get the same productivity.”
FAST FACT: In 2007, CSX employed approximately 1,100 South Carolinians at an annual payroll of over $60 million. They also handle more than 555,000 carloads of freight in S.C. annually. Along those lines, railway companies are taking an active role in shifting their cultures in order to accommodate this upcoming surge of younger workers. “We have to make allowances for the different needs and different value systems that new people coming the industry have and accommodate that, and we’re excited to do so,” Sease says. “As we need younger people to come into our workforce, we’re becoming more progressive on many fronts: making our company culture one where everyone participates and has equal opportunity, and everything that makes a company a good place to work.” Practical application to the mass exodus of personnel approaching the rail industry: many of the workers about to leave the industry will not have the opportunity to train incoming, replacement staff, so the railways are developing training programs in order to successfully transition new employees into jobs that will soon be vacant. In addition to upcoming personnel shifts, the rail industry is also beginning to advance in the technological realm. “Technology has prevented railroads from advancing,” Howie says. “The railroad industry has done too much on paper for too long.” However, according to both Howie and Sease, rail companies are making technological advances. “We have been sometimes slow to adopt the practices because we want to be absolutely sure that they’re applicable and profitable,” Sease says. Recent initiatives by the government have also played a role in incorporating new technology in the rail industry. New technologies expand farther than just offices and ports. “The railway went away from coal to find a better, more efficient way to operate, and the rest of the world will have to as well,” Howie says. “We’re working to invest in more fuel-efficient automotives,” Sease continues. “We’re also working on consolidating freight on trains and other initiatives that would reduce our carbon footprint.” Overall, rail’s biggest challenge is growing business and revenue in order to not only maintain their current holdings, but also expand. “The biggest long-term challenge is to build capacity on our railroads to meet the increasing demand from North American consumers,” Sease says. “That requires that we not only maintain $1.7 billion on our network and resources, but also invest and build new tracks, new terminals, and bring on new locomotives and rail cars. We have to maintain what we have and build for the future before the demand is here.”
CLASS I RAILROADS Freight railroads generate nearly $265 billion in total annual economic activity and support
1.2 million jobs.
Freight rail moves goods in and out of 49 states, and its economic impact is felt in all 50 states. Every $1 of investment in rail infrastructure generates another $3 in economic activity, according to U.S. Department of Commerce data. Each $1 billion of investment in rail infrastructure to expand capacity creates an estimated
20,000 jobs nationwide.
In 2008, freight rail capital expenditures generated $33 billion in total economic activity, which in turn supports another 175,000 jobs. Statistics provided by the Association of American Railroads.
Business Black Box
andrew brandenburg professional writer & editor
magazine feature article
weighing the impact
In an economy where streamlining budgets for businesses has become a standard for survival rather than a yearly chore, companies are looking for any means possible to save money, optimize expenditures and, honestly, get more for less. In a society where health problems abound and solutions can be elusive, many people are considering every viable option for their families to live a more healthful lifestyle thatâ€™s conducive with all aspects of day-to-day life. Many times, how that translates into todayâ€™s business culture is companies looking to optimize performance and employees looking to get more out of their job than just a paycheck.
Enter: corporate wellness.
Business Black Box
A program many businesses have put into place for their employees in order to promote general wellness and a healthier lifestyle, corporate wellness can also hold significant perks for businesses that put them into place. The catch is learning how to garner these perks for your business and effectively gauge them in order to see the changes (and savings) that come into play.
Business Black Box
Health Management At the heart of a corporate wellness program is its structure, which will determine not only its effectiveness but also the actual effects the program can and will have on a business. One common misunderstanding many businesses have is the failure to differentiate a group gym membership from a full-fledged corporate wellness program. “We have a corporate membership program, which most gyms call their corporate wellness program,” Shawn Kephart, director of the Imagine Center in Greenville and owner of the K180 program, says. “You have ‘x’ amount of people and pay a certain price for that many memberships.” Kephart explains that while group gym memberships provided by a business can be a plus and definitely a great incentive for employees, these memberships, in themselves, will not displace a full-fledged corporate wellness program—neither will they offer the same benefits to employees or employer. Kephart’s wellness program, for example, features three main facets: quarterly on- or offsite seminars for each client’s employees, focusing on the specific needs of those employees; on-site boot camps and personal training specific to employee needs; and continued education where clients are regularly provided with information ranging from dietary suggestions to fitness tips—all based on individual analyses of clients so the information is pertinent to the recipient. “One of the main problems with many corporate wellness programs is that they’re not being implemented correctly,” Kephart continues. “These companies are spending lots of money and receiving low returns.” An extension of this concept— which may seem obvious— includes making
sure that any specific wellness program being considered refers to actual medical professionals for both analysis and direction. Plans that solely offer facility access without authoritative information and direction can only provide marginal help to a business’s employees. “It’s our belief that having clinical people involved to help interpret and explain health risks is really important,” says Jim Bross, who has worked in hospital finance management at Rutherford Hospital in Rutherford, N.C. for more than 23 years—17 of which as CFO—and more recently as a senior level operating officer and interim CEO. Greenville Hospital System’s external corporate wellness program is one example of how wellness programs get involved directly with the lives of the employees in a company. “We actually prefer to go on-site with employees [versus having the employees visit the hospital],” Jane McBride, director of clinical rehabilitation and wellness, says. “It’s quite difficult to create a plan away from their job. Once we’ve established that relationship, we connect them to as many resources as we can so we can so we can impact the health of their children and their spouses as well.”
Business Black Box
“One of the main problems with many corporate wellness programs is that they’re not being implemented correctly. These companies are spending lots of money and receiving low returns.”
One of the key facets of corporate wellness programs that sets it apart from most other company-run programs for employees are its dual-natured benefits—both a company itself as well as its employees can benefit from it in a significant manner. It’s this fact that makes a corporate wellness program for a business such an important decision to consider, even during an economic downturn when budgets are tight. By nature, a wellstructured corporate wellness program is an investment made by a business. “A company’s most valuable resource are its employees,” Kephart says. “Even during tough times, when companies are looking
for ways to cut costs and maximize productivity, really the best way to accomplish that is to have a corporate wellness program.You are literally producing more productivity through the same people and cutting the turnover rate.” However, with so many “health-friendly” options available to businesses to afford to their employees, it can be deceiving when considering one program versus another. “In a corporate perspective, some businesses are not addressing the real issue,” Derrick Singleton, founder and owner of MaxMotivation in Greenville, says. “Corporations will put on a health fair or health screening, but they don’t follow through.” Singleton brings to light one of the most important aspects (and necessities) of corporate wellness: while health fairs and screening in themselves may provide a healthy dose of information, there’s virtually nothing these programs, on their own, can accomplish. Many of these programs also differ in the fact that they offer generalized information, versus offering specialized help based on the needs of the organization. “A good corporate wellness program will analyze where your people are at and what that is costing you— what’s the bottom line?” Singleton continues. “It’s about addressing the real health issues of the employees and setting up a program for whatever they need to get those folks healthier.The follow-through is really what’s important.”
“A good corporate wellness program will analyze where your people are at and what that is costing you.”
Establishing a Basis First things first. In most corporate wellness programs, employees take part in a comprehensive, company-wide screening process.While specific tests and data may vary from test to test, the motivations behind each test work toward a similar goal. “A fundamental approach to employee health includes starting with a really exhaustive profile—or health risk appraisal— including basic clinical measurements like body mass index,” Bross says. “We take that approach to look on aggregate and individual scales.” It’s the nature behind these tests that makes them so important. By noting areas of specific need, program facilitators are able to tailor plans to accommodate each businesses individually and effectively. “We took a really basic approach to how healthy our individuals are and how can we educate them,” Bross says. The plan that Bross and his team devised touches on another important aspect of corporate wellness.“Quite frankly, you have to get well to call it wellness,” he says. It’s with this understanding that programs work to help employees identify specific health risks and needs in their lives and work proactively to make a positive difference and avoid serious problems in the future—near or far. Greenville Hospital System takes a similar approach in the program it offers to local businesses. “We’re there to look at their bottom line of health care to help them look at risk factor for all of their employees,” McBride says. “We try to address the rising healthcare costs and improve the healthcare of the workforce.” Important to a wellness program are the resources made available to employees. GHS provides a good example of how a corporate wellness program can be run. “We actually have assembled all of these resources we have at the Greenville Hospital System, from the fitness membership, the wellness programs, the education, the screenings,” McBride says. “We put information boards up in the corporations, trying to give them all the information possible about wellness and fitness in order to help them manage their healthcare costs more effectively.” It’s important to note, though, that the information provided to these employees—something employers need to take account of when deciding on a program—is individualized in order to accommodate each business, rather than the general masses. “We do a health risk assessment for the employees, which consists of self-recorded information from them,” McBride explains. “After they complete the health risk assessment, then we will come in and do a screening for them—a bioelectric analysis—which will cover everything from glucose, thyroid, PSA and pretty much any of the other biometric lab values. We’ll also look at flexibility, blood pressure, heart rate, BMI and body fat.” It’s through this information gathered that programs are able to put together a comprehensive plan for each business. Q3 2010
Business Black Box
Like Singleton explains, it’s the follow-through made by businesses that creates tangible differences for businesses and their employees. Without actual changes and implementations, most facts garnered from these health fairs have the potential to slide in one ear and out the other for the average employee. And while lack of employee motivation, in itself, may not be a motivator for businesses to create external motivation or incentive, businesses who know the potential results of corporate wellness programs know the added effort is well worth it. By helping employees know their risks and teaching them how to live in order to avoid potential negative outcomes, these plans can help employees (and their businesses) avoid health disasters. “You’re trying to help these companies curtail major episodes from occurring,” Singleton says. Needless to say, an effective corporate wellness program can change the face of any business (internally and externally), but what very few people touch on is the impact that a business’s corporate wellness efforts can have on people immediately outside of that business. “Corporate wellness can be used as an economic development tool,” Singleton explains, which is a very important aspect to
consider when viewing a local business economy as a whole. “If we don’t have a stronger, healthier, more educated workforce, why would people relocate here?” In that light, while it may not be every business’s mission to implement a corporate wellness program in order to boost the surrounding economy and make it palatable for other, incoming businesses, these facts do bring to light the possibility for a very important role that local economic developers can take part in.
Incentive Types& Rates of Effectiveness The Wellness Councils of America, one of the nation’s leader corporate wellness not-forprofit organizations, lists four broad categories of incentives businesses can offer in “Absolute Advantage” wellness magazine, in order to encourage participation in a wellness program are listed and discussed:
Trinkets and T-shirts Ranging from the obvious to the novel, water bottles, key chains, pedometers and the like can boost employee involvement with a wellness program, with increases ranging from 10 to 20 percent.
Merchandise and Gift Certificates Similar to trinket and T-shirts, these incentives hold higher value for the recipients and therefore boost participation up to 40 percent.
Tax-Advantaged Cash Incentives Obviously, cash can be a huge motivator for employees of any type. WELCOA notes that many companies will offer incentives ranging from $25 to $50. One thing they note, though, is to be sure these incentives are offered in a tax-advantaged format, otherwise, participants will receive odd amounts, which may not be received with as much vigor. Incentives of this type can garner participation as high as 50 percent.
Benefit Plan Redesign Business Black Box
This final type of incentive listed by WELCOA requires restructuring your company’s benefits program. Health assessments can be made obligatory for benefit re-enrollment. While companies can expect 90 to 100 percent participation, employee feedback can be negative when they feel like they are forced into having a health assessment.
Dollars&Sense Regardless of personal benefit, for business leaders what remains at the highest importance regarding any decision is fiscal responsibility. Sure, individuals feel better, but will the business profit? Can benefits be tracked? Will results really reduce healthcare rates each year? Each of these questions is legitimate and points out a potential flaw in corporate wellness programs. With a solid plan and careful practice, though, each of these pitfalls (and many others) can be safely avoided. Return on investment is one of corporate wellness’s biggest questions.What’s great for businesses is the fact that, if implemented and managed correctly, a good corporate wellness programs can pay back three and four times their initial cost, Kephart says. “If they’re implemented poorly or tracked poorly, it’s hard for HR departments to see the benefits of corporate wellness programs,” he explains. “A lot of companies are scrapping wellness programs because they’re not seeing the benefit, so they’re getting rid of one of the best things they had going.” Kephart does continue to explain by noting other benefits from these programs that aren’t as tangible. “The first thing you’re going to see is an increase in workplace morale because the company is saying, ‘We care about you. We’re doing this to get you healthier,’” he says. This potential increase in morale stems from more than just an opportunity to exercise, making these programs a great opportunity for businesses to invest in their employees. “A lot of companies still follow the traditional model of, ‘I write your check; you do what I say,’ like the employees solely owes the employer,” Kephart says. “A really good program gets into the employee’s life and affects his or her world.”
Kephart notes three trangible results of a well-implemented and –maintained program: decreased healthcare costs, reduced absenteeism and raised company loyalty. If measured carefully, the results can be converted into dollars and cents savings for a business, whether it’s through increased productivity and days worked, or lowered turnover rates, which prevent the need to hire and train new employees as frequently.
“What’s great for businesses is the fact that, if implemented and managed correctly, good corporate wellness programs can pay back three and four times their initial cost.” Another aspect about corporate wellness benefits is the diversity of benefits participants (businesses and employees) can experience, both fiscal and otherwise. “It’s a win/win on both the financial and ethical sides,” Lisa Kopera, wellness supervisor for the corporate employee wellness program at Greenville Hospital System, says. “The win for employee is money off prescription and insurance costs. The win for the healthcare and corporate side is that our healthcare costs are decreased, so we’re not paying as much. “On the ethical or personal side, it’s a win,” she continues. “On the employee’s end, of course, the win is,‘Hey, I have fewer migraines; I miss less work from illness; I’ve lost weight; I quit smoking.’ And on that same side for the hospital, it’s a win because your nurse feels better. If your nurse has a migraine or is out of breathe from walking up the stairs, the care for patients will not be as good, versus when you have a nurse that feels great, they’re energetic, they’re not smoking, they have no more migraines—they’re just a better employee, which is shown through patient care.” But Kopera is quick to explain that not all benefits fall solely into the physical or personal areas of work. “Our disease management program shows close to a 3-1 ratio, which means that we save three dollars for every one we spend,” she says. “ROI is very hard to prove in corporate wellness because it doesn’t capture that the nurse was more cheerful and gave better care; it only captures true dollars, and we believe that just one aspect of the positive result that it has, even if the ratio is 1-1, is it’s worth it because of the increase in care.” Part of maintaining a grasp on the tangible affects a corporate wellness program is affording a company includes re-testing participants. “We certainly want to come in every year and do the screenings,” McBride says. “We will look at their baseline screenings and what programs we’ve implemented that year and then re-screen again. We can then take the aggregate results and the turnover data compare apples to apples. Q3 2010
Business Black Box
“Corporate wellness can be used as an economic development tool. If we don’t have a stronger, healthier, more educated workforce, why would people relocate here?”
Statistics and measurements bring up another potentially troublesome facet of wellness programs. Periodic statistics need to be taken based on the same standard each time, in order to affectively track changes over time. “You have a standardized test where you can say, here’s where you were in the beginning, and here’s where you are now,” Singleton says. “After that, it’s the business’s job to measure productivity in-house.”
But the process doesn’t end their. “We can also work with businesses on their insurance claims and determine what savings they’ve had,” McBride continues. “We can look at what we know has been directly impacted by our programs.” This is the area where seemingly intangible results become attainable and usable for businesses. McBride offers a hypothetical example: “We can estimate that if we pick up someone with a triglyceride level of 500 and get them into an intervention program and we can see within that year that their triglyceride levels have lowered, we potentially have saved the business a healthcare claim of ‘x’ amount of dollars, which is what a potential heart attack would have cost,” she says. “We can attach dollar signs that way.”
“Frequently, it’s about economics for employers— it’s not inexpensive. Employers have to make tough decisions to choose to invest.”
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Yet even with tangible, recordable, useable results, businesses still face another tough obstacle: employee participation. And while there are many strategies that can be implemented, most trend toward employee incentive. “What everybody loves is to be incentivized,” Singleton says. “For the guys that perform, you need to treat them better. People need to be motivated, because everybody needs to be ready to be a leader.” The idea of creating employee incentives can be a tough pill to swallow—especially for the business owner who has already made significant investment to begin a wellness program in the first place. “One thing employers need to understand is that, yes, they have to pay that employee,” Singleton says. “But they can either pay that employee to work out, or they can pay him or her to be sick or for some form of workman’s compensation.” However, in light of the situation, creating incentives for employees appears to be a strategy that works well for both employer and employee. “Frequently, it’s about economics for employers—it’s not inexpensive,” Bross explains.“Employers have to make tough decisions to choose to invest. What we chose to do was create incentives for employees and spouses for 20 percent discount off their portion.”
It Ain’t Easy
If corporate wellness programs are so great, why aren’t all businesses putting them in place? Reasons can range from misunderstanding their usefulness to not knowing how to affectively track positive results. One major misconception is the belief that a wellness program offers a morale boost, but nothing else. “Some companies consider Q3 2010
corporate wellness programs to be like a dress-down Friday—one of many programs they offer to keep morale high,” Kephart says. “A good corporate wellness program is recovering for all other programs to increase morale. It’s not just a program, it’s the program.” For those who do understand the true usefulness of corporate wellness programs, the challenge of actually tracking progress and making that information useful to the HR department still remains. “Here’s the tough part about the measurement side: companies have to understand what their current costs are related to absenteeism due to health issues in order to track the benefits of ‘presenteeism,’ reduced turnover and the benefit of incentives for employees to be healthier, happier, and have a better quality of life,” Bross says.“A lot of companies, including our own, have struggled with how to measure these factors.” Not all facets are quite as difficult to track, though. “Of course you can measure turnover,” Bross continues. “The other absolute you can measure is healthcare expenditure per healthcare covered employee from year to year.” “Another mistake to recognize as an employer is that, it’s a matter of time until you go through a cycle of crises,” Bross says.“It’s common to have a claim that’s a million dollars for a transplant.You have to take really large cases and measure those separately.” “Each company needs to figure out what measurement they feel comfortable making and monitor that for consecutive years,” Bross continues. “I can’t overemphasize the importance of having very qualified consultants. In healthcare assessment, there are a lot of variables and a company must at least be aware of them and take them into consideration.” Aside from calculations and healthcare claims remains the challenge of fostering employee participation, even with incentives in place. “The best way to get employees to buy-in is to make the program relevant to them,” Kephart says. “To have great implementation, you need to address the issues that are necessary for them—it’s about making it real for them.” In addition to tailoring these programs to fit the employees, leaders can reach employees through careful deliberate contact. “Make sure that communication is key,” Kopera advises.“Many employees just don’t read.” Kopera goes on to explain that GHS not only puts an emphasis on communication, but they also work to tailor different channels of contact in order to meet the needs of their diverse network,“Even with 10,000 people, there’s not one avenue to treat all of your workforce,” Kopera says. “For the younger kids, we offer information through instant messaging. If you’re not diverse, you will alienate a certain gender or type of person or age-group. So make sure the program is diverse, whether it’s in the goals or implementation.”
Who It Works For The benefits are clear. The struggles are identifiable. Corporate wellness works for business. Yet some leaders, particularly those of smaller organizations, still feel like it may not be the right choice for them. In some cases, smaller businesses might have the most to gain. “Healthcare costs can sometimes be significantly higher for smaller businesses than larger ones, because they don’t get the same discounts,” McBride says. “A corporate wellness program can certainly work for any company, whether it’s four or five, or four or five hundred. A lot of times the smaller corporations get left out because they don’t feel like there are enough people to make a difference but it really can be for anybody.”
The best way to begin is by having a consultation and screening with a good program. That way, each business can identify individually how it can benefit from a corporate wellness
“The best way to get employees to buy-in is to make the program relevant to them.” program. “The main thing that we find with corporations is that they are looking for solutions for their healthcare costs,” McBride explains. “They are looking for someone to come in and determine what the risk factors are for their employees and make a difference in their healthcare bottom line.”
Wellness Statistics American Health Data • 9.9% of people of all ages are in poor health. (2008) • 32% of adults 18 years and older participate in regular leisure-time physical activity. (2008) • 20.5% of adults 18 years and older currently smoke. (2008) • 22% of adults 18 years and older had five or more drinks in one day at least once in the past year. (2008) • 33.5% of adults 20 years and older are obese. (2003-2006) • 32% of adults 20 years and older suffer from hypertension. (2003-2006) (Information gathered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
Healthcare Data • $2.2 trillion were spent on health expenditures in 2007. • 16% of expenditures on Gross Domestic Products were on health. (2007) • 46% of health expenditures were made using public funds. (2007) • 31% of health expenditures were made on hospital care. (2007) • 21% of health expenditures were made on physician and clinical services. (2007) • 10% of health expenditures were made on prescription drugs. (2007) (Information gathered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
Corporate Wellness Program Data • 80% of illnesses and diseases in the U.S. and Canada that are preventable • 81%+ of businesses with 50 or more employees that host some form of health promotion program • 70% of employee healthcare costs cover preventable illnesses (the average annual health cost per employee exceeds $3,000) • 3.5% -- percentage of turnover for employees enrolled in British Columbia Hydroelectric’s wellness program, versus non-participants’ 10.3% • 80% of employees at Union Pacific Railroad believed that their exercise program helped increase productivity
In a study of more than 30 companies with health programs, 29 were cost effective, generating ROIs ranging from $1.81 to $6.15 for ever dollar spent. (Information gathered by preventdisease.com from various sources)
Business Black Box
andrew brandenburg professional writer & editor
magazine feature article
Business Black Box
Business Black Box
thirsty. You’re hungry. You need a photocopy made. Dilemma: You’re What do you do? your intern for [insert your so-called menial task here]. Answer:Send That’s what he or she is there for, right?
No, seriously. Right?
Professional internships, whether for academic credit or not, are often an anomaly in business. There’s generally a contract, but it’s probably not overly binding. There’s work being done, but usually no cold cash payment in exchange. They can be as short as a few weeks or as long as a year. What do students hope to achieve from them (credits? hours? experience?), and how can businesses determine that? How can businesses best utilize these new faces, often eager to try everything at their disposal. Susan Zeiger, Furman University’s internship program director, offers insights on both ends of the spectrum. “From the students’ perspective, an internship is giving them an opportunity to apply what they have learned in the classroom,” she says. “Students use academic principles and case studies, letting them get into real world situations where they can apply their writing, problem-solving and analytical skills. They’re able to get a taste for a potential career that they may or may not pursue, and they gain valuable experience as well as credit at their university sometimes.” From the business perspective, though, the arrangement takes form differently. “Most businesses work to establish a balance between finding an area where the students can come in, learn fairly quickly, make a contribution to the organization, and at the same time take advantage of their mentoring time,” Zeiger says. “It’s always an investment of time from the business side to mentor someone and bring them up to speed, and get them started, but nine times out of 10, they learn very quickly and are able to take a project and actually run with it.”
Business Black Box
Build a Program You Can Benefit From
The first thing to take into account when considering offering an internship program to young professionals is how the program will be structured. Especially for young people with less experience than many of their older counterparts, added organization can help make their time with an organization much smoother. “It does come down to being very concrete about the project that they want the student to do and concrete about how they are going to orient that student, so that it’s very tangible to the student and the supervisor,” Zeiger explains. “Secondarily, there needs to be an understanding of the initial commitment of time that is necessary; businesses need to make sure that have carved that out for the mentor, or the person who is going to be the direct supervisor.” She explains that the supervisor has got to be there and plan on a specific amount of time to spend each week training and investing in an intern in order to get him or her up to speed. The benefit, though, is that there’s much to be gained by both parties. “That return on investment is huge for a commitment of usually 14 weeks, Q3 2010
or a semester, or even a year-long internship,” she says. “So that’s the key, and during the internship, that communication, and having formal feedback from the intern is another key success factor.” By offering a channel of open communication to the interns, businesses are able to better instruct those participating in the program and, ultimately, get better work done and have a more significant impact on the interns as well. “It doesn’t have to be daily, obviously, but once they have a project, there needs to be checkin points where they are constantly getting feedback, again as a learning tool, but also making sure they get what they want out of the project,” Zeiger says. In addition to communication and time structures, job description and performance expectations follow. This facet is two-fold since the program needs to fit the business but also meet the needs of the student and university. “Typically, the internship can meet the educational component with a combination of routine work and a project of some sort that is specifically asking them to apply their learning,” Zeiger says.“If the internship, on the other hand, is working in a lab, and the routine work is the lab work itself, that would meet the criteria for academic credit. However, for administrative type internships, typically there are routine jobs like updating databases or websites, but then they may have a project researching and creating a new article along those lines.The key still comes back to making sure they’re applying some academic component.” Interns operate in every capacity imaginable, ranging from formal research with scientists or professors at another university to working at the zoo in the education department, Zeiger explains. “We have programs where students work in museums with curators, writing the history of art and artifacts, and we have students in government offices doing anything from administrative work, to budgeting or planning, or trying to collect information that would help them determine what legislations might be effective,” she says. “We also have them in environmental areas, working to do research or cleanup.We have them in nonprofits where they do administrative work, fundraising and are actually working to advance the mission of the nonprofit by serving people; they are primarily working hands-on with the clients or in the administration to support what they are trying to accomplish.” Companies can consider running internship programs in multiple venues of their organization, rather than solely what they’re know for or specialize in. Cindy Ballaro, marketing manager at the Peace Center, lists some of the roles and opportunities for interns with her organization. “We have internships available in several of our departments,” Ballaro says. “We have one in marketing, one in the development department, one in education and community outreach, and we have an intern with our facilites rental manager this summer as well.” In its purest sense, the best way to structure most programs is to include one major project the student can work on for the entirety of the internship, with other daily tasks included throughout. “If you
can carve out a project that you want a fresh perspective on, that you can train someone in a relatively short order to pick up and go, it does give them something tangible they can run with,” Zeiger says. “Of course you’re going to have routine work for them to do, but if you can carve that out, balancing the routine work with something like that, you can get a return on investment from a business perspective.” At the Anderson Chamber of Commerce, interns are given largerscale projects to work on, where they can accomplish a good deal and learn as well. “We want intern projects to be very targeted and very specific,” Lee Luff, president of the chamber, says. “For example, we had an intern come in to help us with our business expo last year. When we seek interns for our internship program here at the Anderson Chamber they are project-specific.” Like Zeiger says, giving interns the opportunity to work on a major, longterm project gives them the chance to develop specific skills, grow their talents and complete something tangible they can show to future employers, while making a major impact on the business providing them with the internship—a win-win situation. Obviously, the best parts about a wellstructured internship are the benefits afforded to both internship provider and participant. “I was in Human Resources for years, and I hired interns,” Zeiger says. “Often I would ask them to help me compile survey data, look at the trends and ask them what they saw about it. Or I would have them go interview directors about a policy that was old and needed to be updated, asking their perspective on issues they had around the policy. Having them do that gave me a totally fresh perspective, which was what I needed. Plus, the analytical skills, people skills and communication skills seen here are all applicable across all industries.”
Following age and raw skill come motivation and work ethic. While it may be painfully obvious that businesses want to take on only the best people possible, it’s possible for a lack of enthusiasm in searching or desperation in choosing that lead to poor intern hires. Alan Ethridge, the executive director at Metropolitan Arts Council, shares a variety of qualities he looks for when considering interns. “We look for people with the ability to interact well with the public, a strong work ethic and a good academic record,” he says. “We also look for people who have the ability to fit the internship in with their academic schedule and have a decent amount of flexibility.” Ballaro also notes the value of hosting interns who are motivated and plugged in to an organization. “We really look for people who can take initiative on their own,” she says. “We’re small-staffed, so interns really get to take part in some great hands-on projects, and we don’t always have time to micromanage people. We look for people who can take initiative with a project and run with it.” Beyond availability and work ethic comes the need for common interest. While in a general sense any positive experience is good, it is key to search for and hire interns with at least a general interest in your area of business. “I believe an internship needs to be in a field where you feel like you’re going to end up,” Ballaro says. “In our case, the intern either has some arts background or is looking to work after graduation with either an arts organization or a nonprofit. Those are the best matches.” Luff and his team take a similar approach by taking on interns who are interested in business and are looking to learn more about their local economy. “Generally speaking, we want an intern who has a pro-business mindset,” he says. “We hope to help them advance to the next stage in their maturity as they begin to look at the marketplace and take their next step in the real world so they are prepared.” Being picky, though, obviously doesn’t just benefit interns. By searching for interns that fit the bill and possess a good work ethic, it can make it easier for businesses to invest in the workforce’s next generation. “We don’t like to bring interns in just to do administrative, clerical sorts of things,” Luff says.“When we utilize interns, we don’t want to waste their time, and we don’t want them to waste our time. We want them to have a very positive learning experience while they’re interning here.”
“We hope to
help them advance to the next stage in their maturity.
The program is in place—at least in thought, if not on paper— and now there is a position to be filled (if not multiple). Interviews are a given, but how should businesses screen prior to that? What criteria should they require in order to solicit students who will best fit the program? First comes age and experience. “The typical time for many students to take an internship is during their junior and senior years,” Zeiger says. “Our juniors and seniors at Furman have usually by then declared their major and may have courses in their major and they are technically trying to specifically find an internship within their major.” Prime time for businesses can be during the summer as well— especially since students are typically less occupied with class schedules and the daily grind of college life. “The summer after their sophomore year is also an active summer for students as well,” Zeiger says. “Especially if they know the area of interest they are looking for in an internship.”
Don’t Give It Away Because It’s Free
Definite No-No’s The thought of relatively free labor probably has many businesses chomping at the bit—not necessarily in an unfair way. After all, today’s economy isn’t offering businesses many breaks at the moment. There are pitfalls to watch for and situations to avoid when hiring interns, though. “From the business perspective, I’ve worked in human resources for years,” Zeiger says. “Businesses are looking at ‘How can I gain from having additional man power?’ I agree with that as long as it stays within the guidelines.” 55
Unpaid internships offer businesses the flexibility of hosting eager-to-learn young professionals while avoiding any direct financial impact on the organization. However, with a down economy and layoffs across the country, it’s important to emphasize these six principles the U.S. Department of Labor has established, which must be in place for an unpaid internship to be legal. 1. The training, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to that which would be given in a vocational school; 2. The training is for the benefit of the trainee; 3. The trainees do not displace regular employees, but work under close observation; 4. The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the trainees and on occasion the employer’s operations may actually be impeded; 5. The trainees are not necessarily entitled to a job at the completion of the training period; and
Business Black Box
6. The employer and the trainee understand that the trainees are not entitled to wages for the time spent in training.
The main fact businesses need to keep in mind is that interns should never fill the roles of actual (obviously vacant) jobs at a company.“I think it’s more just reemphasizing that in these economic times that labor laws are set up to make sure that businesses don’t cut 30 people and hire 30 interns all for unpaid purposes,” Zeiger explains. “This law is set up to make sure that interns are treated fairly, No. 1; and No. 2, if you hire an intern for unpaid purposes, it has to be for education. Basically, the internship needs be an educational experience and not a replacement for someone you should be paying minimum wage.” The U.S. Department of Labor lists six criteria (listed and expanded on in our sidebar) necessary of an internship in order for it to be legally unpaid. For all other internships, minimum wage is, well, the minimum. Q3 2010
Gleaning from Experience While there are obvious benefits to hosting interns at a business, some students may remain skeptical to the true benefits they can receive from working for free. “The biggest benefit students can receive is finding out a lot about themselves in terms of how they work, how they learn, what they are able to accomplish and the confidence they can gain in their skill sets,” Zeiger says. “That’s from a personal standpoint, having been an intern myself.” Many businesses take this same perspective into consideration when offering internships to young professionals. “I think it’s really important for us to be mentors to these students so they get great real-life, real-world experience,” Ballaro says. “It’s important to me that we’re being mentors to these young adults and making a difference in their lives and helping them see if this is the type of work they want to do.” Internships aren’t all about self-discovery, though.“From the business standpoint, interns can take advantage of learning from a mentor in a specific area to find out what that career is like and are able to accomplish tasks or a project that they can include on their resume or use to build a portfolio,” Zeiger says. Internships also provide students with the ability to discover what they don’t enjoy before entering the workforce fulltime. “Sometimes students find out a certain job is not what they want to do, so they are able to adjust before they commit two more years of school or grad school to it,” she adds. Internships coordinated directly with school programs offer additional benefit as well.“If they do it for credit, what they’re doing is taking their reading, assignments and past course knowledge, to the site, and the
With the influx of young professionals taking one—if not multiple—internships and a growing number of mid-career individuals employing internships as a segue into new careers, there are important facts eager hopefuls need to take into account when seeking a new learning experience.
• Use networking to your advantage—family, friends and other associates can offer great recommendations and leads. • Have multiple professionals—preferable from different industries—critique your resume give you recommendations. • Practice interview questions ahead of time to get the jitters out. • Consider your career goals and follow your interests—being passionate about what you do can make a career much more rewarding. • Be open minded. Although a specific internship may not be exactly what you are looking for, any experience can be good, and you may be able to make valuable connections. • Be willing to help in any situation or setting—you can always meet people and network. • Choose the references pertinent or helpful to the industry you’re trying to break into.
Business Black Box
professor is asking them to journal or write about their experiences, and then they write a paper and give a presentation at the end, and that’s what they are graded on,” Zeiger says. “So they are obviously accomplishing that, but I think the biggest benefit for them is to be a part of a unit that is professional and accomplishing a task, and feeling like when they come back out, they have something to offer, number one, and secondarily, come back with confidence in their skills, and say this is an area I’m interested in, or not.” For businesses, though, some of the relative inexperience interns bring to the workplace actually offer a benefit to companies that some may not realize or take advantage of. “They come with a fresh set of eyes,” Luff explains. “Sometimes, since we have people who have been on staff for a number of years, we do everything the same old way. Here, we get a fresh set of eyes and a different perspective from their vantage point.” Beyond academic credit, and learning experiences, and the help provided to businesses, there’s one final facet of internships that make them profitable for both intern and business owner. Internships also give businesses a chance to “pre-screen” employees before formally hiring them and also give students the opportunity to both prove their abilities and try a job before accepting an offer. “We’ve hired two of our recent interns,” Ballaro says. “When we started, we didn’t know there would be a position, but we had a chance to work with them and learned how great they were. When positions became available and they were hired, we kind of laughed. You don’t know what a person is gong to be like when you hire them so it was really perfect actually.”
• Call each company when vying for an internship— making personal contact can set you apart from the competition.
andrew brandenburg professional writer & editor
Published on Nov 9, 2011