Magazine article Strategic Finance

INVESTING IN INTERNS: Companies Can Create Internship Programs That Help Shape the Future of Management Accounting

Magazine article Strategic Finance

INVESTING IN INTERNS: Companies Can Create Internship Programs That Help Shape the Future of Management Accounting

Article excerpt

Today, interning seems to be a necessity for future job seekers. It's a way for companies and students alike to test-drive potential career fits. Companies are interested in attracting the best talent among soon-to-be college graduates, while students seek a real-world taste of the career path for which they have spent years preparing. It's common to see internship opportunities for students in areas of study such as engineering, marketing, and information technology, for example. How can we develop management accounting's next generation in the same way by using this effective tool?

Every summer, engineering students join my company in the construction industry as interns with the goal of translating classroom education into real-world application and experience. Several years ago, we decided to develop other essential areas of our company in the same way. We instituted a program for accounting students to join our company for a unique, hands-on summer experience of learning management accounting in the business world. I'll share a few of the things both interns and the company have learned about the benefits of this great experience.

INTERNSHIP OBJECTIVES

Lead the internship program from the start by developing the program's goals and objectives for both the company and the student, and consistently remind yourself and your staff of these objectives. An obvious objective of the company is to hire interns to help complete tasks. Likewise, experience gained by performing accounting-related tasks is an objective of the students. Ensure that the tasks assigned are meaningful and connected to the management accounting topics they are studying. Such tasks include generating and posting journal entries, completing general ledger account reconciliations, and preparing periodic performance analysis with refreshed data.

Challenge your interns with complex tasks, and, as a leader, remember to support them every step of the way. Avoid hiring interns as a way to catch up or accomplish tasks that staff members avoid doing, such as filing, copying, or answering phones. Using internships in this way may discredit your program and hinder your ability to attract good candidates in the future.

THE INTERVIEW AND CANDIDATE SELECTION

Today's college students are extremely motivated not only to learn but to teach others the skills they've developed. Find candidates easily by contacting local universities. Many have job boards where you can post the opportunity. I've also contacted the university's accounting club and arranged a time to talk to the group about IMA[R] (Institute of Management Accountants), management accounting careers, and my company's internship opportunities. Conduct the candidate selection and interview processes in the same way you would when hiring permanent, fulltime employees. This helps you identify the best candidates and also provides great interviewing practice for students.

Avoid giving preference to relatives or friends of coworkers simply because of that relationship. It's easy to abandon established requirements and objectives to fit a preferential candidate because of a relationship. Doing this compromises the effectiveness of the internship program. Set specific qualifications and stick to them.

Sorting through resumes and selecting the best candidates may be difficult because little might distinguish one candidate from another. …

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