Category Archives: internships

It is Internship Season in China – Are You Getting the Best Students?

Photo: Courtesy of CNEX

Earlier this June, over 9 million Chinese students took the gaokao, China’s university entrance exam.  This is somewhat similar to the SAT in the United States.  However, unlike the SAT and US university system, there is much fewer university selection to choose.  By some estimates, this year’s high school graduates are competing for 6.85 million places at Chinese universities, according to Ministry of Education figures reported by China Daily.

For the lucky students, this means an opportunity to rise up in the social-econonic stratus, getting out of the country-side villages and into corporate jobs in China’s biggest cities.

However, getting top scores and graduating from university are not the only criteria for employers in China any longer.  With increasing global competitive pressure, companies in China are looking for other criterion to be better position in the global market place.

Survey – Education Background Not the Only Criteria

Regus conducted a survey recently on employer selection criteria of Chinese students.  According to the survey:

  • Only 9% of mainland companies polled consider educational background their top hiring criterion.
  • Companies value most is practical, on-the-ground experience—such as internships—something that nearly 30% of respondents listed as their top priority when evaluating potential employees.
  • Personality and foreign-language skills were each cited by 21% of mainland employers as their key hiring criterion

Internship and Work Experience Important

The Regus study surveyed over 330 business executives concentrated in major Chinese cities in information technology, consulting and manufacturing industries. The emphasis on internship experience, not educational background, was even more pronounced among IT industry employers.

Stiff Competition

While 70% of the companies surveyed indicated they plan on hiring new grads, given the nearly 7 million jobseekers who will graduate this year, competition for jobs is fierce.  Salaries can be meager and won’t earn enough to make a living in the big cities they once imagined.  These groups of university have been coined the term “Ant Tribe.”

While China-based university students are facing stuff competition for limited employment opportunities.  Their compatriots from overseas are returning competing for the same opportunities.  Their international exposure, dual language skills and creativity competencies puts them ahead of their counterparts.

For example, in the an article by China Daily, the writer highlights Chelsea Hu, who will graduate with a master’s degree in communication management from the University of Southern California.  Hu is anticipating she can secure roles other than entry-level, higher title and more pay.

The Future

China maybe at a cross-roads.  If the Chinese university system are not producing the sort of students needed for the workplace of the future, companies may need to rethink how it prepares its workforce.  Providing internship is a start. Securing top students early in their education life may be a start but, may not be sufficient to change the system – which is necessary for China to stay competitive in the global talent marketplace.

Building a Talent Pipeline through Internship Programs – Action Plans for Companies in Asia

Scores of reports, studies, and anecdotal evidence show that graduate hires have positive impact on organization. While corporations are increasing their graduate hires but attracting the top university graduates are getting more difficult.

In the context of emerging markets in Asia, companies have under-utilized graduate programs as a strategy for talent development and pipeline for hiring. Management commitment and human resource recruiting strategies must incorporate graduate programs as part of the total solution for organization capability planning.

Against the backdrop of emerging markets such as China, India or Vietnam the need for companies to attract and retain top talent is certain to remain competitive. Companies are facing high-turnover and spiraling wage spikes. The situation is compounded due to talent shortages. Schools are not well prepared, although improving, in training students for the workplace. As the market place expands employers struggle to meet hiring demands.

Internships are excellent programs giving students work experience and exposure to the workplace. These programs also give companies opportunities to assess students and skills for entry-level hiring positions. Many employers do not capture the full benefits of internship programs but end-up as community relations programs.

5 Point Framework for Building an Internship Program
A carefully crafted internship program can help an organization to achieve its long-term ability to attract and hire the best talent. Consider the following:

1) Leverage Internship Programs for Conversions

  • A strategic internship program should be designed so that top interns are pipeline feeder to graduate hiring.
  • When interviewing for interns select the best as if you were going to hire any other employee. Have a rigorous selection process.

2) Meaningful Internship Experience

  • Solid job content is important. Shadow programs or administrative work assignments are a thing of the past.
  • The discerning intern will look for employers who value their contributions to the bottom-line.
  • Work with business groups to design programs that will leverage students’ skills and teamwork to accomplish specific projects.

    Example: The internship program at Intel in Vietnam has 3 components:
    A) Work – Business managers are responsible for documenting specific internship projects. Those projects proposals are reviewed by the College Program Manager and subjected to approval by the general manager. Students conduct project presentations at the end of each 3-4 month internship period.
    B) Learn – Staffing and Intel University (corporate training) develop specific training sessions targeted for students. Topics are designed around gaps found in the traditional classroom.
    C) Community – This is a unique component where Intel has incorporated a community volunteer program. Interns participate in various charity programs and are designed to further develop student leadership skills. Interns also learn the importance of giving back to the community, being a good corporate citizen.

3) Incorporate Performance Evaluations

  • Hold students accountable for their work deliverables and performance. Specific project outcome should be made clear at the beginning of the internship.
  • Conduct evaluation sessions at the end of each internship period and provide feedback to students.

4) A Strong Commitment to Conversion – “Automatic Offers”

  • Top performers should be given job offers at the end of the internship period, before returning to school for the final course work.
  • Managers have already seen and had direct experience with interns and therefore, students should not be subjected to further interviews.

    Example: The Intel program does not subject interns to further interviews upon completion of the intern program. In fact, the top interns receive an automatic job offer (with a formal offer letter) before students go back to school for their final school semester

5) Manage the Program

  • Do not leave program success to chance. Anything that is measured gets done.
  • Put in place a program manager whose role is to manage the program outcome between business units and the interns.

Having an organizational foundation built on strong talent inevitably gives companies a competitive advantage in today’s environment. Graduate hires also tend to have a stronger record of company loyalty leading to lower turn-over rates. Thus, internships should be an integral component in strategic programs to attract top talent.