This solution is a form of empowerment—a challenge managers already face
within their organizations.
In their 2011 book, Developing Management Skills, Cameron and Whetton discuss empowerment as “providing freedom for people to do successfully what they want to do."
The student demographic discussed above is in dire need of this freedom.
These students want to pursue engineering but feel overwhelmed by the coursework; provide for them the psychological resources to succeed, and more students will be able to graduate as capable engineers.
As a manager, I would empower potential engineering students by offering a scholarship to promising incoming freshmen that also would include a potential internship for the following summer. Sometimes, all it takes is one source of validation, a vote of confidence from a respected authority in the field, to convince someone that he or she is capable of pursuing a dream.
Investing in freshmen will show that a real company believes in their technical abilities, thus giving them the confidence to persevere through that first year of intimidating engineering coursework.
A scholarship recipient would enter the internship program contingent on two qualifications: meeting basic academic requirements during freshman year, and desire to intern with the company.
This ensures a minimum competency for the interns—allowing the company to structure a meaningful internship, obtain useful work from the student and minimize financial risk.
The decision to proceed in the program would ultimately be the student’s choice. In general, people perform best when they are doing work they have chosen; it will not benefit the student or the company if the student feels forced into engineering and into the internship.
Beyond empowering students to face difficult coursework, this program has the benefit of attracting new recruits to the company at an early stage. Employing freshman interns, who could potentially work for the company for three whole summers before taking a full-time position, would provide ample time to ensure they are a great fit, allow for valuable training, and spread the message to other potential hires that your company is the one to work for.
Nicole Moes is a sophomore in mechanical engineering at Rice University. She also is pursuing a certificate in engineering leadership and a minor in energy and water sustainability. After graduation, she plans to work in the energy sustainability area. This viewpoint was adapted from one she submitted recently in a student competition sponsored by recruitment firm Kelly Services. Moes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.