This summer marks the first run of the Kloeckner internship program. The program, which began June 4, is an eight-week business exposure program intended for rising college juniors and seniors. It is built to give them a real introduction into what working for Kloeckner (or any other business) would be like. For the first term, five students from Atlanta-area colleges have been selected out of a pool of several hundred applicants. These interns have been assigned real projects and are working closely with managers and team members in various divisions to get them accomplished.
“They aren’t just filing or doing data entry or getting coffee,” said Amanda Middendorf, manager of training and development at Kloeckner’s corporate office in Roswell. “The managers have carefully chosen projects that really add value, contribute to our strategy, and are important for us.”
In the past, Kloeckner has hired interns more as part-time employees. This program is the first formalized internship program that Kloeckner has undertaken. The first three days are designed as a crash-course orientation. The interns learn about the history of Kloeckner, the company’s global presence, the types of products that Kloeckner buys, sells, and processes, and the type of customers it has. The interns are taken to a couple plants where they go on tours to see the business in action. After this, the interns are better prepared to start the core of the internship where they are assigned real work that helps add value to the company.
“They’ll treat you like an employee and you will get some good real experience,” said intern Matthew Kost who is working with the Alpharetta branch. “As a college kid, you can only get so much real-world knowledge from these professors.”
Throughout the program, interns have professional development training courses which are also open to other people in the organization. These courses cover everything from general business skills which will help the interns transition into the workforce after graduation to more specific subject matter based on Kloeckner’s strategy, for example, digitalization or lean operations. At the end of the internship, everyone will get back together to share their projects and experiences.
“It has been a really good experience,” said intern Scott Ginter who is working with the Digital Marketing team. “I really enjoy everyone that I’m working with. They are all very nice people. The company definitely treats their employees right. They have done a lot for us interns and the intern program is really good. It has definitely helped me learn skills, not just computer and data analytics, but also working with people, collaborating with people, getting things done, meeting deadlines, and learning time management skills.”
One of the core goals of this internship program is to try and give interns a real understanding of what it is like working at Kloeckner. The only way to do this is by having the interns involved in projects where their skills have the opportunity to make a difference for the company. While interns may not have decades of experience in the steel industry, they have a fresh set of eyes, a fresh perspective, and great technical skills. Working together with their more experienced counterparts they are able to solve problems and help the company move forward.
“You want to get an image of what it is really going to be like when you graduate from school and move into the workforce,” Middendorf said of the internship. “When interns come into an opportunity with an organization and don’t feel like they get access to ‘real work,’ maybe they feel like they are just filing or taking care of busy work or scanning, little things, it really makes it hard to see the value that you are adding. We want them seeing how their work is contributing to the organization. That will help them take more ownership of their work, take it more seriously, and be proud of it in the end.”
Kloeckner is striving to build relationships with colleges and universities across the country so they know that Kloeckner is a great place to land for people just starting their career. Many graduating students nowadays don’t know much, if anything, about the steel industry. At Kloeckner, many people currently in management and leadership positions just landed in the steel industry by happenstance 15 to 25 years ago and then fell in love with it.
“We want to be able to share that experience with people who are just starting their careers as well,” Middendorf said. “Opportunities like an intern program and other development programs are great ways to attract new talent. When people see that they have opportunities to learn and grow and move up in an organization, the organization becomes a real employer of choice.”
Kloeckner Metals hopes to use this framework to create internship programs at its 47 locations throughout the United States. Kloeckner has utilized what it has learned from previous interns and intern managers in developing this program. They provided feedback about what was good and what was challenging, and the program has developed from there. The response from everyone has been great.
“I think almost everyone I’ve spoken with is really excited about having interns,” Middendorf said. Whether they work directly in their department, or they are just around the office or the plant, folks like the idea of having fresh, excited faces joining the Kloeckner team and helping out.”