Guest Commentator: Dawn Seifried, Vice President and CFO, Proconex @_Proconex

How can education outreach programs, like internships and co-ops, boost talent pipelines at middle market companies?

When I first came to Proconex, I was pleased by how organized and extensive our intern, co-op, and education outreach programs were for a middle market company. Today, we are expanding our program not only as a pipeline for new hires, but also to add new skills to our emerging growth areas and to fill short-term project needs.

One popular and fulfilling part of our program is college recruiting, but with a twist. We surveyed our employees to see where they graduated and we invited them to spend an entire day alongside our HR representative at their alma mater on behalf of Proconex. Those employees are not only natural “cheerleaders” for Proconex but can also speak from the perspective of a burgeoning professional. Their enthusiasm is infectious and they bring that high energy back to the workplace for days, and even weeks, after the career fair.

One goal of our internship program is to provide interns with real-world opportunities to work on active company projects. A recent example where we put an intern to the test was to update our corporate intranet. They not only did a terrific job, but also asked to get more involved working in technology and security at our company. Another example was our employee handbook, where we used an HR intern to get a much needed project off the ground.

As an engineering firm, we are constantly evolving into more of a technology company. Two examples where our co-ops have made significant contributions are in software development and business analytics, where we have very few full-time employees dedicated to those specific skills. This is helping us determine our future permanent staffing needs in these emerging growth areas. We also use interns and co-ops for inside-sales roles, where full-time staff can train and mentor them on the job.

Overall, our program is very structured and we are continually building upon it. For our internal hiring managers, we are helping them define what they’re looking for and how to communicate with those in the program. On the topic of mentoring: by far, our interns and co-ops tell us that being assigned a Proconex mentor and having the opportunity to meet one-on-one with each member of our executive team is the most valuable and memorable part of their experience. As a group, we also organize fun activities like baseball games, escape room events, frequent lunches, and visits to our service facility location and select customer sites.

I’m proud that our Education Outreach Program provides a positive impact in both expected and unexpected ways for our company and for young professionals.

Proconex is a member of the Chamber’s Middle Market Action Team, which brings together 70+ key stakeholders and top middle market executives committed to creating and sustaining long-term success for middle market companies – defined as businesses with $10 million to $1 billion in annual revenue.