Lehigh Valley Internship Summit Provides Tips on Attracting Tomorrow’s Talent
By Colin McEvoy on October 18, 2021
For a third consecutive year, the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC) hosted the Lehigh Valley Internship Summit, providing businesses important information about how to establish and expand successful internship programs, connect with local colleges and universities, and attract the interns that will become their talent of tomorrow.
The creation of the Internship Summit, which was held on Oct. 14, was built from the ideas and insights and time and effort of all our colleges and universities who work with students every day.
“We have knowledgeable presenters from here in the Lehigh Valley and I know their presentation will spark new ideas for you,” said LVEDC Vice President of Business Development and Talent Supply Karianne Gelinas, who primarily organized the event.
Held virtually via Zoom, the summit included speakers from PPL and Lutron, and highlighted for regional employers and educators how to start or grow internship programs, as well as how to structure programs in an engaging way that benefit both the company and intern.
Speakers included Brian Case, Manager of Corporate Talent Management & Diversity at PPL; Jessica Mersinger, Senior Organizational Development Consultant at PPL; and Courteney Cox, Human Resources Coordinator at Lutron.
Gelinas also highlighted LVEDC’s recently-released Career Development & Internship Directory and Internship Toolkit, which are available for download on the LVEDC website.
The directory offers the career development contact information at each of our companies and universities; their websites where you can post intern jobs, and the majors and fields of study for which they offer internships.
The toolkit offers guidance and best practices in creating and expanding internships at your company and also offers additional resources like intern job posting examples and evaluation templates, Gelinas said.
Case and Mersinger discussed PPL’s internship and co-op programs, which will have 70 interns participating next summer. Last year, 33 out of the 63 participating interns were later offered full-time jobs at PPL.
“It’s amazing to hear the interns as they are approaching the summer say, ‘I can’t believe the amount of responsibility and accountability that I had as an intern,’” Case said. “They gain a tremendous amount of experience and go away really feeling a lot of pride.”
Mersinger said employers planning an internship program should communicate early with participating students, prepare training plans, provide overall department objectives and individual goals, and develop weekly check-ins and encourage ongoing two-way feedback. PPL also has assigned dedicated coaches for their interns.
“Our interns are not left alone,” Mersinger said. “We make sure they have a mentor throughout summer which is their coach; they have a direct supervisor and a whole team behind them that’s going to make sure their internship is a success. We want them to interview us just as much as we want to interview them for those three months.”
She also highlighted other aspects of PPL’s internship program, such as its full-day orientation, summer kick-off event, community service day, and professional development offerings like leadership training and guidance about interviews and resume building.
Cox discussed how Lutron created Alt EXperience, its first ever virtual internship program in 2020 due to the restrictions caused by COVID-19. The four-week program offers on-demand programming, collaborative projects, and live panel discussions and training programs.
Cox said employers establishing internship programs should engage with prospective interns early, offer them equal opportunities, foster a collaborative environment, and make sure the internship program is authentic and genuine.
“We’ve all been a part of presentations that lack that genuine connection, where it’s just an exercise where they’re still testing out what works and what doesn’t work,” Cox said. “Students have been in this virtual forum for so long that they are only wanting to join something that they understand the purpose for.”
This event and the Lehigh Valley’s talent initiatives are a collaborative endeavor championed by the LVEDC Education and Talent Supply Council, local employers, the Workforce Board Lehigh Valley, our region’s colleges and universities, career and technical schools, and K-12 systems, and LVEDC.
LVEDC’s talent work is made possible by the generous support of state Sen. Pat Browne and the commonwealth of Pennsylvania. LVEDC’s talent initiative recently won an IEDC Gold Award for best Talent Development and Retention initiative, and a PEDA award for Economic Development Program of the Year.
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