Core value of Mentorship + Need for skilled employees = Birth of Internship program
Since our beginning, Force Design employees have enjoyed a culture of teaching and learning. With just a handful of employees, open communication and information sharing was easy and necessary. As Force Design added team members, we continued to actively share knowledge and learn from each other. We saw the value of this trait and made the commitment to nurture it as we grew. Today, we recognize this trait as one of Force Design’s core values: Mentorship. Employees at all levels of experience, teach, and learn from each other.
One way that Force Design has embraced Mentorship is through its internship program. We needed to add skilled employees but faced an employment market with a limited number of qualified individuals. Because young people are one key to future growth, we began working with local schools and colleges to bring on bright, conscientious interns who have developed into valuable employees. Believing that future growth would best come from hiring young people, we arrived at a philosophy that “Attitude is foundational. Skill can be taught”.
Internship Program Goals
The primary goals of our internship program are to:
- discover if the intern is a fit for Force Design and
- discover if Force Design is a fit for the intern
We view an internship as a time for the company and the intern to assess various strengths and challenges. If the intern develops to fulfill our need and shows passion for what we do, we gain a great employee. If we find that the intern’s strengths do not lie within the scope of the company’s need and we feel their unique talents will give them better fulfillment in a different area, we encourage and assist them in that direction.
From the initial trial-and-error stages, we have developed a streamlined, documented process for training interns. Key to this effort has been the establishment of a three-person Education Group. The Education Group guides and coordinates both the internship program and continuing education for all employees.
A Look at the Program
Our program covers many disciplines such as controls engineering and mechanical engineering. Although the learning path and tools vary for each discipline, the overall goals are the same. Let’s look at some of the details of our mechanical engineering program. The primary objectives in a mechanical engineering intern’s development are:
- Familiarize intern with SolidWorks, our 3D modeling design software
We’ve assembled a 60-hour training course to get interns up-to-speed on our 3D CAD software, SolidWorks. A mostly self-led course, the intern steps through online training videos and other materials we’ve selected to gain a working knowledge of the software. They learn how to model parts and assemblies and create 2D drawings of them.
- Teach Force Design’s best practices for modeling and design standards
At key points throughout the training, interns practice what they’ve learned. Using actual past Force Design projects for reference, they recreate selected parts, assemblies, and drawings. It’s crucial to learn how to use the software efficiently to create robust designs. Drawing on the shared experiences of our veteran SolidWorks power-users, we’ve developed best practices and standards for models that capture design intent, are quickly understood, and are easy to change later. We follow this approach throughout the intern’s training.
- Teach Force Design’s project flow
While general training materials and referring to past projects are very useful, we give interns experience on “live” projects as soon as practical. This often starts with creating simple dimensioned drawings and progresses to creating complex assemblies under the direction of a lead designer. Constructive feedback helps the intern make corrections and improvements to their own models and drawings.
By engaging with mentors on live projects, interns gain an understanding of general project flow and specific customer requirements. They also learn to utilize our project planning and time tracking software and our file management system.
- Convey Force Design vision, mission, and core values
Force Design practices principles of professional management, and we want to familiarize all employees with them. Thus, throughout the intern training program, we strive to convey not only the “what” and “how”, but also the “why”. It’s exciting to bring on a potential new team member and see their unique contribution.
Our internship program benefits both the intern and the company. To an intern pursuing a 2-year or higher engineering degree, Force Design provides partial to full tuition reimbursement. The intern gets the opportunity to learn from experienced individuals who enjoy sharing their knowledge. Most importantly, the intern gains real-world experience and a chance to assess whether this path is right for their future.
The company also benefits from the internship experience. Teaching what you know really forces you understand it better. Interns ask many questions and this sometimes uncovers holes in our processes. Interns are also excellent sources of fresh ideas that successfully challenge the status quo!
Stay tuned to hear from some of our interns in their own words…