Category Archives: internships

Recruiting for the Cloud

Millions of people around the world use Amazon to find everything from light bulbs to rare works of art. Now, thanks to a new service offered by the Seattle-based behemoth, companies will soon be going to Amazon to find and recruit cloud engineers.  The Seattle-based company’s AWS Educate division will be offering free, self-paced  online courses and learning modules through its new Cloud Career Pathways program. Students who successfully complete the offerings will be matched with relevant internships and job openings via the AWS Educate Job Board, which in addition to Amazon itself features employers such as Cloudnexa, Splunk, Instructure and Udacity.

“We built AWS Educate with a vision of helping to cultivate a cloud-enabled workforce,” said Teresa Carlson, AWS vice president for worldwide public sector, in a statement. “We’ve designed Cloud Career Pathways that will help students get targeted experience and skills, and placed those side by side with relevant jobs from some of the most in-demand technology employers today.”

TechCrunch’s Ingrid Lunden notes in a post that Amazon’s move could make it a potential competitor to LinkedIn, which is using its Lynda.com acquisition to offer training in areas such as coding to professionals looking to acquire more skills. Amazon’s decision to offer the courses for free fits with its overall business model, Lunden writes, in which it “prices competitively — or not at all — to bring in more users, who either represent a sizeable revenue opportunity in aggregate, or (in free cases) lead to the potential of paying for other goods and services down the line.”

The Cloud Career Pathways are aligned with four over-arching “job families”: cloud architect, software developer, operations-support engineer, and analytics and big-data specialist, says Amazon. Each pathway includes a minimum of 30 hours of content designed to build core skill sets across the four job families. Once they’ve successfully completed the coursework (delivered via instructional videos, lab exercises, online courses, whitepapers and podcasts), the students will receive badges and certificates that appear on their AWS Educate profile, which they can use in their job applications. They can also apply directly to jobs and internships posted on the AWS Educate Job Board, says Amazon.

Coming to the Aid of Unpaid Interns

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill last night that would extend new protections to unpaid interns in the federal government, but it’s anyone’s guess whether the legislative branch will enact a similar law for unpaid interns in the private sector.

According to the Huffington Post:

The bill would close a loophole in federal law that carves unpaid interns out of the Civil Rights Act. Current law does not acknowledge unpaid interns as employees, leaving them without remedies if they encounter discrimination based on race, sex, age or religion. The proposed legislation would allow unpaid interns to sue the government in federal court if their rights were violated.

The bill, the Post notes, is one of a trio introduced by Democrats looking to extend civil rights protections to unpaid interns in all U.S. workplaces. The other two would apply to unpaid interns working in congressional offices and to the private sector at large. The bills are being sponsored by Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and Reps. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) and Grace Meng (D-N.Y.)

Of course, the legislation aimed at private businesses would have the biggest impact on employers, as well as the tallest hurdles to overcome. Republicans in both chambers have been reluctant to impose any new regulations on businesses, particularly ones that can lead to lawsuits from workers.

Scott said yesterday that, given the passage of the federal portion of the legislation, he was calling on leadership of the Education and the Workforce Committee to take up the private-sector companion bill.

There’s no word on when (or even if) Congress will take up the other two pieces of legislation aimed at unpaid interns, but if your company operates an “unpaid intern” component within  its workforce, then you would be well-served to keep an eye on the status of this proposed legislation.

New Hires Face Higher Expectations

If you’re new to an organization, you’d better be prepared to hit the ground running — especially if you’re a college grad. That’s certainly the way it’s been for Ham Serunjogi, who tells Fast Company he was “shocked” at how much was expected of him during his first few days at work.

Serunjogi, a graduate of Grinnell College, started work as an intern at an environmental technology firm in 2013. In his first meeting with the executive director, he was asked whether he’d taken a database class in college. When Serunjogi replied in the affirmative, he recounts, he was told that he would now be overseeing the design and implementation of a new communication database for the organization.

“That was the first time I was ever brought into a project I had little or no knowledge about, and was expected to deliver results,” he said.

This past summer, Serunjogi began an internship at Facebook, where he encountered similar expectations. “Facebook is a very fast-moving culture,” he tells Fast Company. “There’s an expectation that you come in and you learn how to catch up with everyone else, otherwise you’re slowing down the entire organization.”

Technology companies are far from the only ones with such a mindset these days. HRE‘s Talent Management Columnist, Wharton prof Peter Cappelli, has written extensively about the trend in Corporate America to do away with the extensive training programs companies once provided to help new employees develop and acquire skills. Now, he writes, firms expect employees to come “ready made” with the necessary skills via school, college and internships — and if they have trouble finding such people, then it’s evidence of a “talent shortage.”

Yet more evidence of these higher expectations comes via a recent Harris Poll, which finds 27 percent of the 319 executives surveyed said they form an opinion of entry-level employees in less than two weeks and 78 percent decide in less than three months whether or not that person will succeed at the company.

Considering that everyone is now expected to be “an A player” right out of the box, job candidates need to prepare accordingly by interviewing their potential employers as much as they’re interviewing them, Decisions Toolbox chief recruitment officer Nicole Cox tells Fast Company.

Use that time to clarify what will be expected of them, she says. And, “after they’re hired, ask if they’re meeting those expectations.”

One would also hope that employers do their part to clarify expectations — and give new hires the time and support necessary for proving their capability.

Explaining the Unpaid Internship Enigma

judgeIf an intern is for all intents and purposes a regular employee, then should he or she still be considered an intern?

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit recently attempted to answer this existential question, or at least help clear up the confusion over whether interns should be treated as employees—and paid as such.

On July 2, the aforementioned appeals court—which covers New York, Connecticut and Vermont—ruled in the case of Glatt v. Fox Searchlight Pictures Inc., in which plaintiffs Eric Glatt and Alexander Footman claimed that Fox Searchlight and Fox Entertainment Group violated the Fair Labor Standards Act and New York Labor Law by failing to pay them as employees during their internships, as required by FLSA and NYLL minimum wage and overtime provisions.

In June 2013, Glatt and Footman—who interned on the set of the 2010 Fox Searchlight film Black Swan—were granted partial summary judgment by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, which found that Glatt and Footman were indeed employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act and New York Labor Law.

In reaching its decision, the court relied on a version of the Labor Department’s six-factor test to conclude the interns had been improperly classified as unpaid interns as opposed to employees. At the time, the DOL filed an amicus brief imploring the appeals court to adhere to the department’s test requirement that each of these factors—the internship is similar to training that would be received in an educational environment and the intern does not displace regular employees, for instance—is met before considering an internship unpaid.

The Second Circuit Appeals Court, however, recently opted to “decline [the] DOL’s invitation,” according to court documents, in which the appeals court described the test as “too rigid for our precedent to withstand.”

Rather, the court agreed with the defendants’ assertion that “the proper question is whether the intern or the employer is the primary beneficiary of the relationship.” To conduct the “primary beneficiary” test, the court focused on two issues—what the intern receives in exchange for his or her work and “the economic reality as it exists between the intern and the employer.”

In sending the case back to district court for further proceedings, the appeals court decision “delineates when and under what circumstances an intern must be treated—and more importantly, paid—like a regular employee,” says Mark Goldstein, a New York-based attorney and member of Reed Smith’s labor and employment group.

By making this distinction, the Second Circuit addressed an issue that “had been a thorn in employers’ sides for the past several years,” says Goldstein.

The test used by the Second Circuit Appeals Court differs from the DOL’s “all-or-nothing” approach, which essentially required that an intern be treated as an employee “every time the employer derived a benefit from the intern’s work,” Goldstein told HRE.

Under this new standard, an intern is not categorized as an employee “simply because he or she performs work for the company, or because the company derives a benefit from the intern’s work, as the DOL had attempted to argue,” he says.

Moreover, the Second Circuit “appears to have made it much more difficult for the plaintiff’s bar to obtain class and collective action certification in lawsuits brought by former interns,” in ruling that the question of an intern’s employment status is a “highly individualized inquiry,” says Goldstein.

“This alone may spell the end of the recent barrage of unpaid intern lawsuits.”

Even in light of the court’s employer-friendly decision, though, now would be a good time to assess internship programs “to ensure that such programs satisfy all applicable judicial and regulatory guidance,” says Goldstein.

“Unpaid internship programs still pose risks—including not only potential liability for wage and hour violations, but also potential tax- and benefits-related penalties—that must be weighed before an internship program is implemented.”

Summer Jobs on the Decline

Leading up to his State of the Union later this month, President Obama has been giving folks a taste of some of the issues he’s likely to address.

466488753Among this sampling is a proposal he started talking about last week to make “the first two years of community college free for everybody who is willing to work for it.”

In a videotape message posted on Facebook, the president said: “It’s not just for kids. We also have to make sure that everybody has the opportunity to constantly train themselves for better jobs, better wages, better benefits.”

Few specifics were mentioned, but I would imagine the proposal is going to meet some serious opposition in today’s Republican-led Congress. Whether it succeeds or fails, though, there’s no denying a lot more work needs to be done to prepare our nation’s youth for the workplace. The issue is simply too important to overlook.

One reminder arrived in my email yesterday morning in the form of a press release from JPMorgan Chase & Co. In it, JPMC issued a report—“Building Skills Through Summer Jobs: Lessons from the Field”—that showed summer employment programs aren’t meeting the needs of young people seeking summer work, with fewer than half (46 percent) of those applying for such programs getting into them in 2014.

The report—a part of JPMC’s $250 million, five-year “New Skills at Work” initiative to address the mismatch between employer needs and the skills of job seekers—found a nearly 40 percent decline in summer youth employment over the past 12 years. One would think we could do better than that.

According to the JPMC report, the employment shortage disproportionately impacts low-income youth and young people of color. In 2013, the study found, low-income teens (with family incomes at less than $20,000) were 20 percent less likely to be employed than high-income teens (with family incomes of $60,000 or more); and the employment rate among white teens was 39 percent, roughly 27 percent among Hispanic teens and 19 percent among black teens.

The study is based on a qualitative analysis of 16 summer youth employment programs in 14 cities around the nation.

“Funding goes up and down, because it’s in the context of the local economies,” JPMC’s Head of Workforce Initiatives Chauncy Lennon told me. “But if you look at the macro picture, the slope of the funding is consistently downward.”

Lennon said there’s good employer participation, from the standpoints of both investments and partnerships, but the study suggests that more work needs to be done. Besides more slots being created, he said, greater effort needs to be made to ensure that those slots are of a higher quality and are tied to workforce needs.

The report goes on to highlight key opportunities to improve the ROI of summer youth employment programs …

Strengthen infrastructure and connections among programs: There is tremendous innovation across summer youth programs. But the cities and programs surveyed in the report identified the need for infrastructure to capture what’s being learned and to expand best practices to more cities. To strengthen quality and sustainability, summer programs need to be connected to each other and to local workforce systems … .

Deepen private sector engagement: Summer youth employment programs are looking for both resources and jobs from private sector employers. But they are also looking for deeper engagement that can improve the quality of these experiences for young people … .

Bring a skills focus to summer youth employment: Adding a focus on skills that are currently in demand by employers to summer jobs programs can better prepare young people to compete in the workforce … .

If you want to learn more about these programs, check the JPMC report out.  Among other things, it features a number of innovative programs currently under way.

The Companies Best-Loved by Interns

Glassdoor has just released its annual report on the 24 highest-rated companies hiring interns this year, based entirely on feedback from interns over the past year. No. 1 on this year’s list is Facebook, which knocked last year’s No. 1 — Google — down to No. 2.

Rounding out the top five were Qualcomm at No. 3, Schlumberger at No. 4 and Epic Systems at No. 5.

What makes these companies so popular for interns? “The culture is pretty awesome and has staying power … everyone is actually happy that the interns are there,” a Facebook software engineer intern reported. A Qualcomm intern had this to say:

Interns are automatically considered for return internship opportunities or a full time position. There are many career opportunities in Qualcomm HQ, employees are encouraged to explore areas that fit their passion.”

Glassdoor compiled the report from reviews posted by interns about their experiences working at companies over the past year. It also included some sample interview questions applicants have been asked during interviews for internships, and some of them are pretty amazing. Here are a few samples:

An apple costs 40 cents, a grapefruit costs 80 cents and an orange costs 60 cents. Under these circumstances, how much does a pear cost?” Epic Systems intern interview

“How many skis are sold in Sweden every year?” JPMorgan Chase intern interview.

“You have a bag of N strings, and at random, you pull out an end. You pull out another end and you tie the two ends together. You take another two string ends and tie them together. You repeat this until there are no loose ends left to pull out of the bag. What is the expected number of loops?” Facebook intern interview.

Based on that last question, I think we should all start taking Facebook very seriously now.

Just How Involved Should Parents Be at Work?

Not like we haven’t written about the moms and dads of young employees — primarily millennials, born between 1981 and the early 2000s — inserting themselves into key moments of their children’s work lives, starting with the hiring process.

178760957--dad and son at workBut this recent piece in the Wall Street Journal (subscription site) went beyond what I knew — or what we’ve reported on — when it comes to steps employers are taking to encourage this trend.

The story mentions Milwaukee-based Northwestern Mutual, which regularly invites parents of its college-aged interns to open houses and encourages managers to send notes home to them when their kids reach their sales goals. They’re even allowed to come along to interviews and hear details of job offers made to their sons and daughters.

It mentions Mountain View, Calif.-based Google Inc., which recently held its second annual “Take Your Parents to Work Day,” bringing in more than 2,000 moms and dads; and St. Louis-based car-rental firm Enterprise Holdings Inc., which provides information packets for the parents of interns and new employees in its management-training program and lets the parents listen in when managers describe job offers.

Interestingly, though, it also mentions a study by PricewaterhouseCoopers that finds only 6 percent of recent U.S. college graduates want their parents to receive a copy of their offer letters and only 2 percent want their parents to receive a copy of their performance review. And that’s well below the global norms of 13 percent and 8 percent, respectively.

I don’t know. Sounds to me like our kids are more ready to cut the cords and grow up than their parents want them to be.

But hey, who am I to criticize? I’m one of those parents. I text/talk regularly with my 32-year-old and 29-year-old sons — a third-grade teacher (and father of two) and mechanical engineer, respectively. I attend their adult-league baseball games like a sports mom who refuses to unhand her pom-poms. I’m still invited to their Philadelphia Phillies and Eagles tailgate parties — well, some of them.

I am keenly aware of this special bond of respect, regard and closeness that exists between many folks my age and their children — who, let’s face it, absolutely were raised as extra-special people who we would go to the ends of the earth for (and with, if we had that kind of travel money).

Granted, I would never stand in the back of the classroom while my older son talks to parents at back-to-school night. I would never ask to see either one’s performance review. (My guess is some of the parents asking for that kind of transparency were the more outspoken — often critical — ones I’d see at back-to-school nights and on soccer-field sidelines.)

No, I’m no “stagehand” for my kids. But I sure do ask about their jobs and lives, and they sure do share. I still know their friends, and their friends’ parents (even some of my daughter-in-law’s). I consider myself blessed to have had my children in a generation when both sets of dreams were shared — not kept secret, ridiculed or ignored.

Is this really a growing workplace trend? Should employers really be giving it wings? Will — and should — moms and dads really be inserting themselves into more and more work-related events crucial to their precious progeny? I suppose this could become a future workplace norm, especially if the generations to follow remain as committed to this mutual-respect, mutual-involvement parent-child experience.

But I’m thinking it will eventually abate. Demographic behavior traits change with the ages. Priorities change too. As my grown sons tend more to their own and include me when they can, I find myself happily and healthily letting go, refocusing on the grandkids, proud of the men they’ve become and the jobs they’ve secured — with my help and without it.

Intern or Trainee? Pay or No Pay? Ruling Raises Stakes

It may be more than a month since a federal district court judge in New York ruled against Fox Searchlight Pictures in favor of interns working on the movie Black Swan, but reactions and responses are still swirling among employers and their attorneys.

intern-- 115955722The latest critique of the ruling in Glatt v. Fox Searchlight Pictures Inc. appeared today on LawFuel.com, highlighting “how difficult it is for a for-profit business to create lawful unpaid internships.” Indeed, the heat for employers is intensifying, with cases also being brought against Hearst Corp., Conde Nest Publications, the Public Broadcasting Service’s Charlie Rose Show and this recent one against Gawker Media.

“Employers have already started to take a hard look at their internship programs,” Rachel Bien, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, told the New York Times. “I think this decision will go far to discourage private companies from having unpaid internship programs.”

In the Searchlight ruling, District Court Judge William H. Pauley III held that unpaid interns on the movie set did not fall under the narrow “trainee” exception to the Fair Labor Standards Act’s minimum-wage and overtime requirements, despite the fact that they received academic credits for their internships. He ruled they should have been paid because they were, essentially, working as employees.

(Indeed, plaintiffs Eric Glatt and Alexander Footman, production interns on Black Swan, say in their September 2011 lawsuit that they did basic chores usually undertaken by paid employees, such as taking lunch orders, answering phones, arranging other employees’ travel plans, tracking purchase orders, taking out the trash and assembling office furniture.)

The studio also appears not to have followed an April 2010 six-factor test put out by the Department of Labor to help employers determine whether and when that trainee exception should be applied. I asked Mark Temple, employment attorney with Reed Smith, to elaborate on that list with things employers should be doing or keeping in mind. Here’s the DOL’s list of trainee-status qualifications (in bold), followed by Temple’s pointers:

1. The internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training that would be given in an educational environment. The more an internship program is structured around a classroom or academic experience versus the company’s actual business operations, the more likely a court will find that it’s an extension of the intern’s educational environment. Companies may want to partner with educational institutions to ensure there’s some academic aspect incorporated into the program. They should also consider creating training materials that cover specific learning objectives to supplement the experiential training.

2. The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern. Many courts consider this factor to be the most important one. If the intern is primarily fetching coffee and performing routine office tasks, he or she is less likely to have been found to benefit from the experience. Indeed, that experience should be a meaningful learning opportunity — for example, as noted by the DOL, providing an intern with transferable skills, not just skills particular to the company’s business operations. To that end, consider asking interns to complete a questionnaire before starting that lays out specific learning objectives, which the company should try to meet. Also consider rotating each intern within various departments to increase his or her exposure to new skills.

3. The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff. If an intern is primarily performing free labor, which would have otherwise been performed by paid employees, then he or she will likely be eligible for payment under the law. As explained by the DOL, to be considered a bona fide educational experience, you should provide job-shadowing opportunities that allow the interns to learn skills under the close supervision of regular employees and perform no or minimal productive work.

4. The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and, on occasion, its operations may actually be impeded. Don’t be dependent on, or derive any immediate benefit from, the unpaid intern’s work. In fact, such a program can and should disrupt normal business operations.

5. The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship. The internship should be of a fixed duration and not be used as the company’s probationary period for individuals who will be later considered for employment. So don’t use it as a primary tool for recruiting and don’t create any firm expectation of employment at the end of the program.

6. The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the program. You should consider the possibility of entering into an agreement with each intern and any participating educational institution laying out the expectations of all parties — in particular, the intern’s specific learning objectives and the company’s business expectations.

So, will all this just dampen the internship experience altogether, for all involved? Possibly. It doesn’t have to, though. Just ask yourself if your organization is legal under the six-factor test and, if not, simply consider restructuring it, says Temple. It’s also a good idea, he says, “to train [all] supervisors on the legal issues relating to intern programs to help them better understand what they can and cannot do when managing their workforce.”

Rethinking the Resume

resume imageMany job seekers like to get a bit creative in making their resumes really pop.

But the candidates behind these CVs, summarized here by the folks at Yahoo! Finance, are taking some especially imaginative (and in some cases calorie-laden) approaches to grabbing HR’s attention.

Consider marketing professional Nicholas, for example. Nick decided the way into hiring managers’ hearts was through their stomachs, and created the “resumebar,” a chocolate bar promoting “credentials that will satisfy any organization’s appetite.”

He even went to the trouble of providing a label with personal facts and a list of skills, or ingredients, ranging from copywriting and brand management to search-engine marketing and revenue generation. This scrumptious curriculum vitae got picked up on Reddit, viewed more than one million times, and helped Nick land a job with LeagueApps, a platform that connects adult recreational athletes.

Jordan McDonnell, a financial analyst seeking more creative pastures, went the anti-resume route. Struggling to gain entry into the marketing industry, he created an “alternative CV” that proudly advertised the fact it was NOT a resume. The Power Point-style slideshow presentation, which neatly encapsulated his professional and personal lives to date, garnered 90,000-plus views in just over a week. Soon flooded with job offers from around the world, McDonnell wound up accepting a position as an account manager with Twitter.

My favorite may be a young finance major’s brutally honest twist on a time-honored tradition. Here’s an excerpt from the cover letter he sent to a New York investment bank in January, seeking a summer internship:

I won’t waste your time inflating my credentials, throwing around exaggerated job titles, or feeding you a line of crapp [sic] about how my past experiences and skill set align perfectly for an investment banking internship.”

The truth, continued this candid applicant, “is that I have no unbelievably special skills or genius eccentricities, but I do have a near perfect GPA and will work hard for you.”

The duly impressed recipient forwarded the frank letter to several colleagues and peers, sparking interest up and down Wall Street and becoming a viral online hit in the process. No word on where the young man will be interning this summer, but his prospects may be looking up.

“I wouldn’t be surprised,” commented one banker at Business Insider, “if this guy gets at least a call from every bank out there.”

SHRM Enters Into Yet Another Website Venture

It’s getting hard to keep up with dealings that either affect or involve the Society for Human Resource Management. The latest is this announcement today that SHRM and Internships.com are forming an alliance that, as the release states, “seeks to inform employers and students about the benefits of experiential education and to provide cutting-edge tools and resources to optimize the process.”

As part of the alliance, it says, Internships.com has developed a dedicated microsite accessible to SHRM employer and student members so they can directly search for and connect to each other for free. SHRM and Internships.com will collaborate, it says, to ensure that student members are aware of the new resources.

That’s followed by respective pats on one another’s backs by Robin D. Richards, chairman and CEO of Internships.com, and Henry G. Jackson, interim president and CEO of SHRM.

“SHRM is the most respected and influential human resource management organization in the world … ,” Richards says.

Says Jackson: “For students seeking a career in HR, internships provide valuable practical experience and an advantage in the search for a first professional position,” Mr. Jackson said. “SHRM’s new alliance with Internships.com will help provide important resources to those entering the HR profession.”

What feels a bit dizzying about all this is the still-unresolved dot-jobs-universe fight between the latter’s creator, Employ Media (which worked in conjunction with DirectEmployers Association to create that domain and was sponsored in that effort by SHRM), and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, which filed a breach-of-contract against Employ Media all the way back in February, claiming Employ Media’s issuance of thousands of demographic and occupational dot-jobs sites was in direct competition with the job-board world and in direct oppostition to its stated purpose under ICANN’s contract. Told you it was dizzying.

Hard to say where all that stands, or is headed. In this April 21 statement, posted on the News Blaze site, The .JOBS Charter Compliance Coalition basically chastizes ICANN for not holding Employ Media’s feet to the fire over its initial 30-day shutdown threat in its initial Feb. 27 notice or its first extension to April 15. It further demands ICANN settle the matter or shut the dot-jobs universe down by its latest May 6 extended deadline.

Most recently, three days before that last extension, Employ Media comes out with this announcement, posted on mediabistro.com, saying it is filing for formal arbitration from ICANN so it can argue all the finer points of what it claims was ICANN’s “lengthy and thorough process that [it] utilized in approving Employ Media’s plans … .” No date for that has been set yet, it seems.

SHRM’s new recruiting service for employers and interns certainly appears to be a nice change of scenery.