One of the events I really enjoy at AWFS is the student competition. It is truly inspiring to see young talent as it develops. The work of Jacob Wozniak, this year’s winner of the WorldSkills Cabinetmaking Qualifying Trial, reminds us that passion for craftsmanship is alive and well in the next generation. All of us here at NueMedia, LLC and WoodIQ.com congratulate all the participants in this year’s event and wish Mr. Wozniak the best of luck as he prepares to represent the USA at the WorldSkills Competition in Sao Paulo, Brazil in 2015.
Seeing the imaginative work of the next generation of woodworkers also reminds me of how important it is to nurture and support young talent. A grass roots way to do this in our companies is through internship programs. Interns bring fresh energy and new perspective to any established business. They keep you on your toes and don’t let you take anything for granted. Unlike employees who can become established in routine, interns aren’t afraid to ask a lot of questions. After all, they have yet to chart the course of their career and this is THEIR opportunity to learn from your experience.
We started an internship program this year here at NueMedia, LLC and the results have been very positive. Not only are our student workers helping us maintain an accurate, up-to-date ProductIQ database, they are also enabling us to tackle several of the special projects we had on our wish list but didn’t have the manpower to start.
What has really surprised me however, is how much we are learning from them. A valuable lesson we recently learned from our interns is that the job isn’t always the job. What I mean is that when we created the first project, we outlined the tasks our interns would perform and estimated completion time. After training and a little experience doing it ‘our way,’ they discovered a couple other issues that could be simultaneously addressed that we hadn’t considered. Their inquiries about why they weren’t performing these tasks made their contributions even more valuable. Strangely enough, the changes they suggested caused the entire project to be completed much faster than we predicted. ‘Out of the mouths of babes’ as they say.
Another lesson we learned is that you can’t count on old resources being the same as you remember from days before the Internet. Change is inevitable, and of course many times those changes are for the better. Case in point – the elimination of paper-based trade magazines for digital information portals like WoodIQ.com, FinishingIQ.com, and CounterTopIQ.com. But then there are those who somehow lose sight what made them valuable in the paper-based world. We gave our interns resources and tools based on old experiences, assuming that the quality we remembered would still be there in the digital world. It wasn’t. We would have continued to operate under a wrong assumption if it weren’t for our interns.
Setting up an internship isn’t that difficult. Your local universities, technical schools, even high schools, have departments that interface with local businesses. There are also groups and associations that offer ways for your business to work with the up and coming generation of woodworkers. In next week’s column, I’ll share some thoughts and resources for you to establish the connection with this young talent. Take it from someone who knows … the value they add to your organization is amazing.