Organizations strive to convert interns into employees

Jamon Alexander, standing, is the keynote speaker for the West Michigan Intern Connect virtual program scheduled for June 23. Courtesy of Hello West Michigan

Organizations in West Michigan strive to ensure that summer interns learn about the region’s diverse cultural, lifestyle and employment opportunities in the hope that they will have a great experience and will take root.

Gentex and Lakeshore Advantage teamed up in May to host a second annual launch event for Gentex interns, called This Is West Michigan, at the Lawrence Street Park bowl / music shelter in Zeeland. The outdoor game show style event aimed to familiarize students with all the seasonal attractions and lifestyle benefits offered by the area, as well as educate them on the cost of living and employment opportunities. .

Hello West Michigan, a regional talent attraction organization within economic development agency The Right Place, will host a half-day virtual professional development conference called Intern Connect on June 23, its eighth annual event aimed at to help interns connect with the community, their peers and local employers. To make the event happen, Hello West Michigan is working with a host of regional partners who all have the same goal of retaining talented young graduates in West Michigan.

This is western Michigan

Dan Quintanilla, Director of Talent Acquisition, manages the Gentex internship program. He said that this year Gentex has 86 interns from 23 different colleges or universities – its largest class ever – of which 78 attended This Is West Michigan. Thirty-five of the interns live more than 55 miles from Gentex, and most of these interns are moving to the area for the summer. Ten of the interns come from eight states outside of Michigan, including New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin, Kansas, Missouri, and Nevada. Interns work in 20 different departments at Gentex, including manufacturing; chemical, mechanical and electrical engineering; marketing and communication; human ressources; and accounting.

Gentex summer interns participate in a series of team-building events to get to know each other better and explore the area, such as scavenger hunts that take students to places such as the John Ball Zoo, beaches and local restaurants. The HR team also holds meetings with each department manager so that interns can understand how departments work together to achieve business goals.

This Is West Michigan was intended to provide interns with a fun way to meet in person – with social distancing in place – and get to know their temporary home in the hopes that they will one day make it permanent.

“If you think, is this a place where I want to make a career and live, (you ask) what are the things that I love to do, that I have fun doing at home, that I can do here in the western Michigan? Quintanilla said.

To help answer these questions at the event, Lakeshore Advantage hosted “Family Feud” and “The Price Is Right” style games in which interns had to guess the answers to the questions, including the cost of such things. as ice cream, park fees, boating, lodging and lodging; how many theaters and concert halls are there; and what kind of nightlife students will have access to, not only on the lakefront, but in the greater Grand Rapids area.

Lakeshore Advantage provided interns with an adventure-style guide to things to do in the area, and the County of Ottawa donated free seasonal passes to encourage them to experience outdoor adventures in public spaces.

Event organizers also presented information on the types of industries and businesses located in Ottawa County and their impact on the global stage.

For example, many interns do not know until they come to Gentex the central role the company plays in the technology integration systems that power many vehicles and devices on the market today.

Depending on the age of the intern, Quintanilla said some of the main selling points of the Holland / Zeeland region include the many breweries and distilleries; the state having four seasons for outdoor recreation; its proximity to Lake Michigan, Grand Rapids, Detroit and Chicago; the region’s population growth; and the growing number of world-class manufacturing and technology companies based here.

According to US Census Bureau data cited by Lakeshore Advantage, Ottawa County is the fastest growing county in the state, with a growth rate of 11.7% from 2010 to 2020. Forty-seven for percent of the growth was due to natural increases, i.e. more births than deaths, and 53% was due to positive net migration, or more people moving to the county than leaving .

Not far behind, Allegan County is the fourth fastest growing county in the state. The Grand Grand Rapids as a whole was recently ranked among the 50 Best Metropolitan Areas for STEM Professionals by the Wallethub personal finance site.

Although Quintanilla said Gentex had no record of how many of its former interns accepted job offers with the company, he said the company had an acceptance rate of offers from 90% overall employment, and about 20 people in this year’s class are repeat trainees. from the previous year, which he considers a positive sign.

Emily Staley, director of marketing and communications at Lakeshore Advantage, said that 49% of businesses in Ottawa and Allegan counties that Lakeshore Advantage interview each year do some sort of internship, apprenticeship or co-op program, and that each of them should feel free to reach out to Lakeshore Advantage if they wish to partner with an event similar to This Is West Michigan for their interns.

“We built the program, so it can be a little bit self-contained, and we can share it with them,” Staley said. “To provide this interesting and valuable experience… to help (interns) imagine what a career would be like in their organization and to involve and connect them in some way or another with the community, whether with other interns. who are doing an internship with your company or with an organization like Holland Young Professionals, or reaching out to Hello West Michigan, being connected to the community and understanding all of what a career and life would be like here in the West from Michigan – this is our opportunity to really show it.

Intern Connect

If interns want an in-depth professional development opportunity, they can enroll in the Connect a West Michigan Intern Hello West Michigan event is being hosted from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on June 23.

Jessica Kuster is a program manager at Hello West Michigan, and she said the organization has hosted Intern Connect since 2014. Last year was the first year everything went virtual, and it will be again this year.

Started by local businesses in 2007, Hello West Michigan promotes the region as a place where business thrives and people want to live and work. It seeks to increase the success rate of its member companies in their efforts to recruit top talent and works with organizations in the area to help new residents and those who wish to relocate find their place in West Michigan.

This mission extends to Intern Connect. This year, students from any location will have the opportunity to participate in the program, as many internships have been canceled due to the pandemic, and students need networking and career development opportunities.

Kuster said the format of the event has transformed over the years. Last year, due to the COVID-19 lockdown, the organization was able to reuse recorded content from the 2019 live event on Positive Communication and Adult, and then added a live keynote speaker who explained how to be successful at working from home.

This year, topics will include working with your managers, relationship building, and a panel of young professionals once again discussing “real adult talk”. Jamon Alexander, President and CEO of WMCAT, will be the speaker.

In addition to the half-day virtual conference, Intern Connect registrants have access to an exclusive series of virtual connection events, and they will receive The Intern Inform, a weekly email newsletter to keep them engaged throughout the summer.

“Many companies gave up their professional development last year for financial or logistical reasons related to the pandemic,” said Rachel Gray, executive director of Hello West Michigan. “But investing in the workforce of tomorrow is essential for our regional economy. As the “companies follow talent” trend continues, our region needs to continue to invest in the talent we have here, show them that West Michigan wants them, and keep them in the region.

This year, Hello West Michigan has also partnered with the city of Grand Rapids to send GRow1000 students to Intern Connect. GRow1000, the city’s youth summer employment program, works to place students between the ages of 15 and 24 in local businesses. Thanks to a scholarship from Ernst & Young, 200 students between the ages of 18 and 24 will be able to participate in Intern Connect.

Kuster said the Intern Connect event and associated networking opportunities throughout the summer will not only give interns and students information about lifestyle and accommodation options, but also provide them with information about volunteer opportunities, festivals and places off the beaten track.

Hello West Michigan averages around 500 attendees per year to the Intern Connect event, and Kuster said she hopes this year would be no different.

Tickets for Intern Connect cost $ 25 and can be purchased until the date of the event. Trainees can register individually on, or businesses can pay for registration by contacting Hello West Michigan.

As in 2020, Hello West Michigan will again offer its “Champion an Intern” ticket program. Anyone can sponsor an internship ticket at a cost of $ 25, and the ticket will be given to a student whose internship has been canceled or who could not find one for the summer. Instructions for the referral program are on the event website.

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