Taking on interns can help ranching operations find quality, long-term employees

A regular occurring discussion in all segments of the beef industry is securing good employees. Where do you find them? How do you know if they"re a legitimate hire? Are they going to fit your operation style?

One way to put future livestock industry employees through a sorting process is by taking on interns.

"There are a lot of things I like about ranch internship programs," says management consultant Burke Teichert. The livestock industry veteran and retired vice president of Ag Reserves spoke at the 2014 Angus Convention. "If set up properly, internships are a good stringing ground to look at potential."

In every animal science department across the country, ample amounts of prospective students are looking for work experience to build their resumes. According to Teichert, ranch managers interested in tapping into this potential need to reach out to advisors at universities.

"Look for someone with good intellect, has good work ethic and a passion for agriculture," he says.

Position in school is also important, explains Teichert, advising to avoid hiring freshman and students who have already graduated college.

"They need to have at least one year of school behind them, but it"s best for two," says Teichert. "Also, avoid giving an internship to someone who just graduated, because they are looking for a full-time job."

Interns don"t mean cheap labor

Thanks to Hollywood, a stigma often associated to internships are glorified errand runners and coffee makers. According to Teichert, that should be far from the truth, and fair compensation for their work must be provided. Ranch managers also need to be prepared to provide clean and adequate housing.

"Interns don"t mean cheap labor," he says. "These students come to learn and work, so you must allow them to do that while taking the time to teach."

When an internship starts, ranch managers should sit down with interns to outline expectations and goals of accomplishments for both parties. This allows students to take away useful knowledge from the program and for employers to see if they could make a good future fit on their operation.

Internships are an excellent screening tool for future employees, he concludes. If a ranch manager has a good one, Teichert advises them to keep track of their progress in school and into their carrier. That way when the day comes that a full-time position needs to be filled, a ranch manager can easily reach out into to individuals that have already proved to be a fit for the job.


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