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Big companies like General Electric, Microsoft, Intel, etc., are running internship programs and internal “universities” to train their people, but small companies often reject these recruitment and training programs as too costly. But is it really? One really good employee who can take initiatives and work independently is worth training another 9 interns that go on to do other things. It’s a long-term commitment but it is worth it.
For years Enspyre struggled to find marketing and sales people. We interviewed, hired, trained and fired. Over and over again. It was costly, time consuming and extremely annoying.
In the fall of 2008 I was negotiating a cooperation deal between the ECCT SME Centre and Private Chinese Cultural University. From ECCT, what we had in mind was access to PCCU’s great locations for our seminars and workshops. PCCU have their main campus up on YangMing Mountain, but they also have three great modern buildings in downtown Taipei where Enspyre had been renting events facilities for years.
Now we were discussing with PCCU that they would give us free rooms in exchange for access to ECCT’s international network. We discussed many aspects of cooperation and the topic of internships came up. It is my feeling that many foreign entrepreneurs, even the ones who are doing well, are a bit removed from many aspects of Taiwanese society. One of these areas is internship and other more informal ways of recruiting. So I was very excited to have this discussion. PCCU has something like 25,000 students, a combination of regular students ages 18-23 and also older students who work during the day and study in the evenings.
We figured that if our members could have the university’s help to actively recruit suitable students for their company, we could add a whole new facet to our recruitment process.
The cooperation agreement between ECCT and PCCU was signed at a ceremony at PCCU’s JianGuo campus in February 2009. Since the economy was bad, employment down and everything international has a nice ring to it, the media was all over it. I was interviewed by 5-6 TV stations and many other media and felt like a real rock star.
A month or two later Enspyre started our first intern group with five people starting a three month program. Since Enspyre’s office often is completely full with people answering and making thousands of phone calls, I decided to have the group come in on Saturdays only and then I gave them work to be done at home.
Three years later, we have had over 120 interns coming from 11 different universities. Of them, maybe 60 finished the program and we have hired 20 great students to work part-time at Enspyre or one of our partner companies. As the crowning achievement one of the graduating part-timers has been hired as a full-time employee. The first of many, hopefully.
You can check out http://www.interns.com.tw for more info about Enspyre’s intern program. That website is built and maintained by interns and at least as of this writing, anyone searching Yahoo! for “internship” in Chinese will find us right at the top of the list. Not bad for a bunch of students, eh?
How to set up your own internship program:
AIESEC is an international, student-run organization for students. It has a presence in over 110 countries, and has a membership numbering tens of thousands. AIESEC is a great way to find interns from all around the world, check their International site or Taiwan site.