Small Business Tips

How to create a successful internship program

Dayna Steele

A company internship puts a student in a position to not only learn an industry but also begin to develop a professional network. Finding that internship is the first step. Finding a suitable intern opportunity where you learn something is the most important criteria. And, a student usually finds that when they discover a company that understands how an internship should work and how valuable interns can be to a business.

WTDC is a foreign trade zone and logistics company located in Miami, Florida. Founded in 1977 and family-owned and operated by the Gazitúa family, the company is now in its third generation of management. The company’s successful intern program, created by Chairman Ralph L. Gazitúa, is widely recognized in Miami as one of the city’s best.

The program, overseen by third-generation President and CEO Sean P. Gazitúa, works so well in part because Sean and the company maintain close ties with area universities and recognize the value interns have brought to WTDC in the past. Rock Your Business asked Sean to talk about his company’s internship program:

How does WTDC recruit interns?

WTDC has built and maintained relationships with local universities, including Florida International University (FIU), University of Miami, Barry University, and Miami-Dade College, where we try to have a presence on each campus. WTDC’s recruitment strategy includes career and internship fairs, internship postings, as well as direct referrals from career services and individual professors. I serve on the FIU Alumni Association Board of Directors. And, I also am President for the Sigma Phi Epsilon Alumni & Volunteer Corporation. These are networks that have consistently produced high-quality internship candidates for our company.

Does WTDC pay its interns?

WTDC pays interns commensurate with experience. We also have opportunities for unpaid internships for international students and those completing an internship for course credit.

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Does WTDC allow internships to occur off-site?

Yes. During our initial interview process, we identify the availability of each intern or the number of hours required to complete an internship course. We understand the primary focus for the student is to complete their academic studies, and we work with them to develop a schedule that is productive for both parties. Also, during the interview process, we identify a specific goal that the intern will achieve through measured goals and objectives. While some logistics operations functions require an on-site presence, there are remote work opportunities for projects in marketing, research, website development and maintenance, and social media.

What does the student get out of it?

The WTDC Internship program is an opportunity for students to get their foot in the door of the logistics industry. Because Miami is an international hub, many students who study here may later find themselves pursuing careers around the world. For example, interns have joined us from Russia, Venezuela, Spain, Colombia, Brazil, and the Bahamas over the past year. We work with each of our interns to help mold their professional etiquette and communication skills which will translate to any workplace.

What does WTDC get out of it?

WTDC sees the internship program as an opportunity to develop talent for our company and as an opportunity to give back to our community. Our staff has a chance to develop their management skills working with the interns, and the interns bring a positive youthful spirit into the workplace.

There is a lot that goes into making a company successful, and the people who make up the company are a big part of that equation—everyone who works for the company, including interns. So, what are the success takeaways for your company from the WTDC Internship Program?

  • An internship benefits your company as much as it helps the intern.
  • Develop and maintain strong ties with higher education.
  • If it is possible to pay your interns, pay them.
  • Not all work takes place in an office, explore remote opportunities for interns.
  • Create an internship that teaches not only the business but also professional behavior.
  • Appreciate the interns you have!

Do you have a rock star company or company rock star we should profile? Let Dayna know at info@daynasteele.com.

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