How Wind Energy Companies Can Connect with Internship Applicants
April 18, 2023
An article by Tara McMurtry for WINDExchange
The continued growth of the United States wind energy industry is creating an increased demand for qualified workers in many different sectors, including manufacturing, construction, operations, sales, management, research and development, and professional support services. However, wind energy industry employers report that they struggle to find applicants who have the education, training, and experience needed to do the job. At the same time, current and potential workers say that gaining relevant work experience is one of the greatest challenges of finding a job in wind energy. This disconnect is known as the wind energy workforce gap.
For college students and recent graduates looking to break into an increasingly competitive job market, an internship is one of the best ways to gain that relevant experience, build professional relationships, and become a more marketable candidate. Internships are good for the companies that offer them, too. In the short term, they can lighten full-time employees’ workloads and bring fresh ideas to the table. In the long term, internships create opportunities to recruit already-trained talent from within the company.
The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Wind Energy Technologies Office helps address the wind industry’s workforce needs through various efforts, including supporting ongoing research into strategies to close the wind energy workforce gap. As part of this research, a team of researchers from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory interviewed college career offices and evaluated a range of employment websites from prominent national and global wind energy companies. Based on their findings, the research team developed four recommendations to help companies connect with interns and establish these mutually beneficial relationships.
Make Your Company’s Internship Opportunities Easy to Find
For the right applicants to find internship opportunities—and for companies to fill these important roles—applicants need to be able to find opportunities at companies where they’d like to work. NREL researchers recommend the following for helping potential interns find opportunities at your company:
- Provide a way for job seekers to filter your company’s job postings for internships, whether through a drop-down menu or keywords
- Find out what platforms schools use to help students explore job opportunities, and companies should post jobs on those platforms.
Use Consistent Labels for All Entry-Level Roles
Another simple practice to help the right applicants find opportunities at your company is to use clear, consistent labels and definitions for all early-career job roles. NREL researchers recommend the following:
- Intern, defined as an applicant who has neither a job-relevant degree nor professional experience
- Entry-level employee, defined as an applicant who has a job-relevant degree, but no professional experience
- Junior employee, defined as an applicant who has 1–2 years of professional experience.
Recruit in Person
Old-fashioned, in-person outreach remains an effective way for companies to connect with prospective interns and job candidates. This outreach can take a variety of forms. For example, NREL researchers recommend representatives from your company:
- Establish a relationship with college and university career offices, as well as with academic departments relevant to your company’s hiring needs
- Attend career fairs regularly–at least once a year–to market opportunities at your company and meet candidates in person.
These practices can help your company develop strategic partnerships with the schools teaching your future employees and will help build a pipeline that directs qualified workers to your company.
The DOE Collegiate Wind Competition, which will hold its 2023 final event May 15–19, 2023, in Boulder, Colorado, is a great opportunity to recruit job candidates. Visit the competition website to learn how you can attend the event and get involved as an industry partner.
Maintain a Permanent Internships Program Landing Page
To make it easier for job seekers to find internship opportunities at your company, it’s best to create and maintain a permanent landing page where job seekers can learn about your company’s internship program and make plans to apply. Design this page as a one-stop shop where potential applicants can find information about application deadline(s), program timing and duration, pay, how to apply, and more. Your company’s internship landing page should include the following information:
Application and Internship Period Timing
- When does your organization start accepting internship applications?
- When is the deadline for job seekers to submit applications?
- When are the internship start and end dates? Are these dates flexible?
- How many hours can the intern work in a week, pay period, month, calendar year, or fiscal year?
- What types of roles are you looking for interns to fill? For example, are you looking for turbine design, component manufacturing, project development, financial analysis, policy analysis, community outreach, or software engineering interns?
- What minimum qualifications must applicants possess to be considered for the internship? For example, what should their education level and/or grade point average be? How much, if any, previous wind energy experience should they have?
- What other qualifications should the ideal candidate possess?
Pay and Other Financial Matters
- Is the internship paid or unpaid?
- Does your organization provide a relocation stipend?
- Does your organization provide temporary housing assistance?
Mentoring, Training, and Opportunities for Rotation
- Will your organization pair the intern with a mentor? Will your organization lead this process? Or is the intern expected to identify and establish this relationship?
- What training opportunities does your organization provide?
- What, if any, opportunities does your organization provide for interns to rotate through different roles? Explore WETO’s Wind Career Map for examples.
- What roles interns can rotate through? How frequently can they rotate?
Job Responsibilities and Projects
- What duties will the intern carry out in a typical work day? For example, will they collaborate with members of their own team and across departments? Will they support or represent your organization at conferences? Will they use software to conduct wind energy modeling and analysis?
- How does your organization recruit interns? For example, do members of your organization attend school hiring fairs? Which ones? When?
- What opportunities does your company offer for interns to become full-time employees?
How to Apply
- How should job seekers submit an internship application? Through your organization’s hiring portal? Via email?
- What materials should job seekers include in their applications? Resume? Cover letter? References? If possible, if your organization’s hiring portal requires applicants to enter their job history, do not ask applicants to submit a resume as well—your organization’s hiring portal should have already collected this information.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Develop a list of frequently asked questions and answers for job seekers and include it on your internship landing page.
Explore WINDExchange’s wind energy workforce training and education resources for more information on preparing and connecting with the future wind energy workforce.