Almost half of Western Michigan University students complete an internship before graduation; the number of internships business students hold is increasing, with students in some majors accepting two or more internships during their college careers. While students seek more experience, employers are expanding the nature of their internship programs, finding a process that works best to ensure top talent joins their organizations upon graduation.
Kellogg Company’s customer and logistics services department has developed an extensive rotational program that regularly hosts WMU students who are assigned the same duties as full-time employees with many opportunities to learn from senior leadership.
“WMU’s unique supply chain management and food marketing programs align well with our needs," says Gerardo Rincon, B.S.'86, M.S.'94, senior director of logistics innovation and technology. "We expect interns to have basic supply chain knowledge, strong systems aptitude and ability to manipulate data to support a business case.“
Recognizing skills are not the only determining factor in recruiting top talent, Rincon’s team works to identify a fit for the student and the company.
“While in the program, students are coached and paired with intern buddies to help them integrate into the company culture,” says Creighton Curtis, M.S.'10, senior manager of production planning and scheduling. According to Curtis, the customer and logistics services area hires between eight and 12 new interns each year. “Better than half of the interns have been offered full-time job opportunities with Kellogg’s,” says Curtis.
Kellogg’s customer and logistics services area has had an internship program for many years and now regularly employs more than 20—typically, nearly 70 percent of these are from WMU. According to Rincon, the program that once focused on a single, specific role for interns has changed into a full rotation program that offers students exposure to a range of functions.
“Interns gain a working knowledge of SAP, Microsoft Excel, verbal and written communication, conducting themselves in a professional environment and collaborating with co-workers,” says Kelly Nagy, B.B.A.'06, MBA'08, supply chain innovation project manager. “And, they get firsthand working knowledge with other functional areas of the organization including sales, marketing, manufacturing and procurement.”
The company works closely with the college faculty in finding the right interns for its program. “We are very proud of the program, and we value the relationship we have been able to develop between the WMU ISM program and Kellogg’s,” says Rincon.