April 25, 2016
Flight departments working to establish internship programs may benefit from the lessons learned from long-running programs such as the one at Nationwide Insurance. Since 2007 the company has introduced select airframe and powerplant students from Columbus State Community College to the maintenance side of the operation.
Following extensive interviews, interns selected by Nationwide go through a structured onboarding process similar to the one used with new employees. “That includes spending time downtown [at the corporate office] to gain an understanding about what we do, and why we do it,” explained Daniel Wolfe, associate vice president and general manager for Nationwide Aviation Business Center and a member of NBAA’s Business Aviation Management Committee.
Steve King, senior director of aviation maintenance at Cox Enterprises, Inc., said, “Internships are vital for opening students’ eyes to business aviation and really giving them an experience and opportunity like no other.” Cox has several technicians who are enthusiastic about the program, but scheduling often affects when they are available.
When our interns leave here… they are clearly recognized as having a significant knowledge set that impresses other companies.
“It isn’t just a matter of finding the technician with the most experience,” said King, who leads the Maintenance Committee’s scholarship program. “Especially at the beginning, it’s also beneficial to match interns with younger technicians they may relate to better.”
Wolfe noted that any Nationwide team member may be called upon to work with interns. “That includes training on the operational side and in customer service. Our interns learn about other parts of the operation – from working on the ramp, to interacting with senior-level executives, so they become familiar with how to communicate professionally.”
Cox trains its interns similarly. “We pair maintenance interns with flight operations staff so they better understand how both departments complement each other,” said King.
While Cox and Nationwide each have fixed achievement requirements for interns, the realities of student life and business flight operations means the paths to those goals are seldom linear.
“We have a syllabus that isn’t strictly defined,” Wolfe explained. “The dynamic nature of our environment means you truly never know what set of issues you’ll deal with.”
Internships must also be structured around students’ class time.
“Many interns complete our program, which runs between eight to 10 weeks, over their summer break,” said King. “We also try to be flexible with students who are also going to classes, especially when they’re coming from a Part 147 school where they’re required to make up for missed classroom time. That usually becomes a year-long opportunity.”
Interns with Nationwide may work at the company as long as two years. Said Wolfe, “When our interns leave here and head out into the industry, they are clearly recognized as having a significant knowledge set that impresses other companies.”