Developing Tomorrow’s Professionals
December 25, 2015
Written By Adam Buckallew
Launched last May, the inaugural MFA Oil internship program consisted of eight students working in various departments throughout the company. MFA Oil expects the program to become a valuable training tool for future full-time employees.
“When we were building the framework for our internship program, we knew we wanted to be able to provide students with meaningful experiences to prepare them for their careers,” says Janice Serpico, MFA Oil chief human resource officer. “We decided the best way to design the internships to ensure they would be equally beneficial for us and the students was through project-based work.”
Serpico had plans to start a formal internship program at MFA Oil since she joined the company in January 2015. Her previous employer ran a successful internship program, and Serpico says she knew how valuable it could be to MFA Oil in identifying quality candidates for employment.
“MFA Oil had offered some internships in the past, but there wasn’t a program to provide the type of structure we were looking to offer,” Serpico says. “First, we talked with our department heads and hiring managers to gauge interest. Once we had an idea of how much work we could offer students, we put together our outline of the program and began recruiting qualified applicants.”
One of the keys to designing a successful internship experience is to provide students with relevant projects and specified deliverable results.
“Some internships force students to spend large chunks of time on clerical work, but that’s not the type of internship we’re interested in providing,” Serpico says. “Students want to work on projects that matter, so we make sure they are provided with work that challenges them. Our goal is to find strong candidates that we can transition to future full-time positions within the company. It’s hard to know if they’ll be a good fit for the job if you aren’t providing them with the right kind of work.”
At the end of the summer, all participants in the internship program made a presentation that summarized their work and experience to the MFA Oil senior leadership team. The presentations gave students an opportunity to showcase their results.
Recruiting Quality Candidates
Chasyn Chamberlain and Shannon Wright help Serpico with the identification and recruitment of students who would best fit the program. As corporate recruiters, Chamberlain and Wright visit career fairs at local colleges, work with campus career centers and publicize MFA Oil job opportunities through advertisements and online postings.
“All college students are welcome to apply for our internship positions; however, preference is usually given to upperclassmen,” says Chamberlain. “We try to hire the best applicants based on the skills and experience we’re seeking. We have already begun looking for interns for next summer and encourage anyone interested to contact us.”
Wright says, the internship program is an opportunity for the company to educate future employment candidates about the wide range of careers within MFA Oil.
“We run into some students who assume we’re only at their school to recruit for fuel delivery drivers,” Wright says. “While that is one of the job types within the company, we try to make those students aware we have so much more to offer. We have lots of opportunities for students to work in career fields such as marketing, accounting and information technology. MFA Oil is a diverse organization of employees working in varying job functions to keep the company moving forward.”
Chamberlain says the screening process for internship positions is very similar to that of other MFA Oil positions.
“We receive the applications and then work with the hiring managers to set up interviews,” Chamberlain says. “All students must also go through our standard background check and drug screening.”
As the internship program grows and more students are able to participate, Wright expects word of mouth to help deliver new applicants.
“We believe that if we provide our interns with meaningful experiences that prepare them for their careers, they’ll help us by spreading the word about the MFA Oil internship program,” Wright says. “We want them to go back to school and tell their friends about the benefits of completing an internship with MFA Oil. The more we can build awareness about MFA Oil and our job opportunities, the easier it becomes for us to recruit the best and brightest employees in the future.”
Building Future Leaders
While MFA Oil benefits from the work its internship participants complete, the students gain valuable experience and insight.
“Our hope is that the internship experience provides students with a sense of what a potential career at MFA Oil could look like,” Serpico says. “That can be very enlightening. Giving students a real world glimpse of their targeted career path can help them decide if they are on the right track.”
Serpico plans to add new components to the 2016 summer internship experience to aid in the professional development of MFA Oil interns. Establishing lunch and learn sessions on topics such as building better resumes and interviewing tips will provide students with opportunities to prepare themselves to enter the workforce.
“We want to operate the internship program in a way that’s fun for the participants, has solid educational value, and helps us complete meaningful projects,” Serpico says. “The internship program will help us identify potential hires who are interested in starting their career with our company.”
Of the eight students in the summer of 2015 internship class, four have agreed to continue working for MFA Oil on a part-time basis during the school year. Even more promising, some have already indicated interest in working for MFA Oil on a full-time basis after they graduate from college.