Companies get internship-savvy to find next-gen IT workers

Having an innovative Web site and smooth-running IT operations require up-to-date skills from technology workers

Having an innovative Web site and smooth-running IT operations require up-to-date skills from technology workers.

To ensure that they always have a talented and well-stocked pool of future workers from which to choose, many employers are getting more savvy about their college internship programs, updating them to keep up with the needs of their businesses.

Here's a look at the US internship programs at seven large companies. In general, these companies are looking for college students with strong technical skills who could also become potential employees after they graduate. The good news: Most of them still have openings for this summer.

Google interns work on active projects

At Google, about 500 IT interns are involved in the company's global year-round program, said Ann Forbes-Cannon, the university programs specialist who heads the effort. "We're definitely growing our program internationally," she said.

Google's interns contribute to the same projects as regular company employees do, Forbes-Cannon said. "We make sure they're working on active Google projects. They aren't given side projects. They're doing real work to help give them a sense of what it is like to work here."

Having an internship in the company doesn't guarantee a job with Google later, she said, "but anyone who does well, performs well, we'll definitely consider that" for future employment. "We do want to make sure they return and finish their degree. We definitely value the educational piece."

Google interns have made real contributions to the company's online products, Forbes-Cannon said. One recent intern, for example, did a lot of work on Google's online astronomical tool, Google Sky, in which visitors explore the universe online.

"Part of what we want to make sure we emphasize is that we want to give them a well-rounded experience," Forbes-Cannon said. "We also want to make sure they have a good experience," which includes regularly scheduled talks from company executives, authors and others to share details about their work, she said.

Google provides a pay package, free meals and relocation assistance. Candidates may apply internships online. Positions are still open this year, she said.

HP looks for a good fit

Hewlett-Packard hires between 400 to 650 students for paid summer internships. The studnets are from US high schools, colleges and graduate programs, according to Carol Dunn, the intern program manager for the Americas. "The intent of the program is to see if we're a good fit for each other, and we eventually hire the best performers," she said.

Betty Smith, HP's university recruiting manager for the Americas, said the interns are a "feeder pool" for finding qualified, talented future IT workers for the company. "It's seen as a key part of our talent management program."

HP's global IT group seeks interns for hardware and software projects, and positions are still available, Smith said. "They would be involved in all types of work, from business intelligence to collecting and analyzing data. We would be looking for appropriate course work and skill sets for those jobs."

One major benefit for the company is that students bring new ideas to the workplace, Smith said. "Because they are taking courses that teach new cutting-edge information, interns bring with them inspirations and new perspectives," she said. "They look at problems and challenges with new, fresh eyes."

HP interns have also submitted patent applications based on their innovations, Dunn said. "Because interns have grown up with technology as a way a life, along with their education, they bring a lot to HP to contribute to new ideas," she said.

More information is on HP's Web site.

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