Setting up an internship program can help you develop new maintenance workers

Jan. 11, 2006
Learn some ways to open up the doors to the next talent pool for maintenance technicians.

It once was that when a company needed a mechanic, they recruited from rural areas and found strong, resourceful farm boys who had the basic skills needed to fix machinery. Then, companies turned to the “gear heads,” who developed strong skills torquing up the power of their homemade hotrods. Now those talent pools are drying up.

With the current workforce ready to retire, and new equipment requiring a higher level of skills, where can companies find emerging maintenance talent who are willing to get their hands dirty? As many of you know, I continue to explore unconventional methods to resolve the maintenance crisis. With the release of the operatic version of the maintenance crisis song, the reaction has been enormous (, under /resources/useful links). How about recruiting a Ska-generation intern?

Ska is the latest craze in hip music. Imagine putting Bob Marley, Creed and the Brady Bunch in a blender and pressing the high speed button. The musical output would be Ska music. It is a caffeinated reggae, mixed with the rawness of grunge and the purposeful lyrical inclusion of cockeyed optimism.

After attending a local Ska-fest where 15 bands performed, an epiphany emerged. Not only are the musicians good at delivering the maintenance crisis message, they’re also the next great resource for emerging maintenance talent. These kids were interconnecting sophisticated musical systems, troubleshooting defective amplifiers, and working on computer synthesizers, while dealing with numerous outside distractions.

These focused teens and 20-somethings are developing many of the skills we need to keep our modern factories going. They’re not afraid of electrical or electronic circuitry and love to be on the cutting edge of technology. They also have developed strong teamwork skills and they think independently. I highly encourage you to open your doors to these perhaps strange looking but strong potential resources for future internships.

Internships can be invaluable tools for plants to prepare against the maintenance crisis. Following are just a few of the contributions interns are making to many maintenance and engineering departments.

What can interns do for maintenance?

Interns can help introduce new technology; help maintenance do more with fewer resources; help companies comply with regulatory requirements; implement ISO 9000 programs; and infuse new energy and enthusiasm into your department.

Interns can implement CMMS programs; organize the maintenance department; document equipment history; organize spare parts inventory; implement bar-code systems; perform product research matrices for future capital purchases; identify new maintenance resources on the Internet; perform Internet research; provide documentation for maintenance training program; and justify removal of unproductive equipment.

How can you afford an intern?

Many interns will work for just college credit and work experience. College students know that their future is brighter if their resume has solid work credentials and business references. Many colleges provide four hours college credit in exchange for 160 work hours. Many seasoned craftsman would like to perform a role in management. Before promoting maintenance craftsmen with no supervisory experience to management provide them an opportunity to gain some leadership by allowing them to develop your internship program.

How to maximize an intern program

Don't just focus on engineering students. Recruit English, history and liberal arts majors. They are often overlooked resources. They are great at developing newsletters, research and elevating image of maintenance.

View them as business advisors not go-fers. Be flexible — an extra 12 to 20 hours/ per week can help. Give them projects on the Internet, where they work in their dorm room. Let them surprise you — they can come up with some creative solutions.

To establish a perpetual intern program, require each intern to recruit and train their replacements. Develop good relationships with local college professors and director of college internships.

Contact Joel Leonard at [email protected].

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