How Are Your Minor Leagues Doing?

Interns can be a great source of talent for any business or organization. (Photo by Dreamstime).

This summer, my friends and I went to NBA Summer League.

What the National Basketball Association does is bring in the top rookies in this year’s NBA draft as well as other promising young players to scrimmage in Las Vegas for a couple of weeks in July. Then during the regular season, they run a development league for players who just can’t make a NBA roster, or those who need extra playing time but can’t get it on a deep bench. Other major sports have similar leagues, most notably Major League Baseball’s minor leagues.

From a player personnel standpoint, these leagues are great. You have the ability to monitor up-and-coming talent with your own two eyes while they get experience playing against other future prospects. Organizations with solid minor league programs typically have good results and can consistently bring new, but somewhat tested, talent into the organization.

Why am I bringing this up now? The Wall Street Journal released a fascinating study about how employers in different segments are doing when it comes to hiring people from their own minor leagues: interns.

From the article:

Turner Construction Co., a construction management, services and general contractor firm based in New York, hired 233 people into entry-level jobs in the U.S. between September 2009 and August 2010, says Katie Igoe, national recruiting manager at Turner. Eighty-four of them had been interns during that same time period, she says.

Among former interns, the “retention rate is a lot higher than those who have not interned with us, and they are stronger performers,” Ms. Igoe added.”

The top industries for converting interns into full-time employees are utilities, architecture/construction, and marketing/PR. Not surprisingly, certain sectors that couldn’t (or wouldn’t) offer large internship programs suffered the most in the rankings. Insurance, media, and non-profits rounded out the bottom three.

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What really stood out to me was the real advantage of internship programs when it comes to certain industries that require a lot of on the job training to get up to speed. Think of the specialized software and hardware in the utilities industry, or project management for industrial construction versus light commercial construction.

While some of these skills can be learned in school, many of those jobs depend on proprietary processes in an environment where a mistake could be a million dollar one. In a high stakes industry, internships have continued to be a strong contributor of new employees to these companies even as lingering effects of the recession loom over the landscape.

This isn’t even to mention the advantages that any internship will have: easing into cultural impact, reduced risk for both parties and being able to evaluate fit before a full time job offer is made. This is huge to both the company (who has to make a large investment in entry level hires) and to the entering employee (who, like many soon-to-be grads, don’t know exactly what they want to do with their life).

So when looking at your minor leagues (aka, internships), how do you stack up to your industry? Are you making the grade? Could you be doing more? Let me know in the comments.

Lance Haun is the practice director of strategy and insights for The Starr Conspiracy, where he focuses on researching and writing about work technology. He is also a former editor for ERE Media, broadly covering the world of human resources, recruiting, and sourcing. 
He has been featured as a work expert in publications like the Harvard Business Review, The Wall Street Journal, Fortune, MSNBC, Fast Company, and other HR and business websites.
He's based in his Vancouver, Wash., home office with his wife and adorable daughter. You can reach him by email or find him off-topic on Twitter.