It’s no secret that a facility manager’s job can be stressful. With unpredictable daily challenges, shrinking resources and ever-increasing demands, it’s no wonder why facility managers may find themselves looking for additional help. The good news is that facility managers can pass on critical industry knowledge and receive the assistance they need by training and mentoring a student intern or apprentice.
Is hiring an intern right for your facilities department? Keep reading to find out what the internship process entails.
How and Why to Hire a Facilities Intern
What are some advantages of hiring a facilities intern?
A facilities internship program can be beneficial to facility managers and students alike. For a facility manager, having an intern can help you reclaim time in your day and move forward with important growth projects. You’ll also have the opportunity to save money, especially if your budget is too tight to hire pricey outside services. You’ll have the opportunity to incorporate fresh energy into your work routine and teach critical skills to a young professional.
On the other hand, students who participate in a facilities internship will have the opportunity to do hands-on maintenance tasks, gain valuable work experience and prepare themselves for a future career in facilities management.
Are there disadvantages to hiring a facilities intern?
An internship is a learning experience. Interns will require specialized training, guidance and knowledge from mentors in order to succeed. Initially, training schedules will take some time away from facility managers and full-time staff as interns learn their job responsibilities. As they learn, students will likely make mistakes or misunderstand processes.
It’s important to maintain a certain level of patience and understanding during training. Interns will likely come and go as they complete their education. As a result, facility managers may need to hire someone new every semester or every year. These challenges can be remedied by pre-defining expectations for the internship before it begins.
Facility managers may also find it helpful to utilize a shift planner, who will ensure that the intern doesn’t take too much time away from any maintenance technician on your team.
What duties would I assign to a facilities intern?
A facilities internship can be an excellent learning opportunity for students seeking to gain skills and knowledge in facilities maintenance. In general, the intern will learn and assist with basic repairs and preventive maintenance tasks while under direct supervision.
Here are a few examples of duties and responsibilities that could be assigned to a facilities intern:
Conduct building walkthroughs to update building data such as floor plans or asset data or to assess current conditions of the facility and document findings
Aid in maintaining critical systems within a facility (including electrical distribution, building automation systems, plumbing, HVAC, compressed air, fire and life safety and emergency power systems)
Complete miscellaneous projects as needed, including transport and movement of furniture, mounting and hanging of fixtures, room remodeling, organizing and maintaining shop areas and other facilities-related improvements
Execute basic preventive maintenance and corrective maintenance tasks, as needed
Assist with inventory management of spare parts and supplies to reduce asset downtime
Learn how to effectively use and update the department’s CMMS system and/or facility management software
Help with basic administrative tasks and paperwork, such as organizing work orders, schedules or documents such as warranties or floor plans
What should I look for in a student facilities intern?
Ideally, a student intern should be interested in or enrolled in (or have completed) a high school or college program focused on Facilities Management, Property Management, Supply-Chain Management, Procurement or other related field of study.
Interns should be proficient users of electronic devices and computer programs, understand basic use of hand tools and shop equipment, and have the ability to understand safety rules and maintenance instructions. The right student will follow directions, work independently, be a team player and have a positive attitude.
Where do I find a facilities intern and how do I hire one?
Finding an intern is easier than you may think. Start by reaching out to local high school teachers or college professors. Ask them if they would be able to provide you with a list of students who may benefit from completing the internship. You may also want to post the internship opportunity on a job search engine, such as Indeed, Glassdoor or LinkedIn. Here’s are a few basic steps to finding and hiring an intern.
Write a formal job description that lists expectations for the internship.
Share the internship opportunity with the career office of local high schools and/or colleges.
Get references from internship candidates, especially from the student’s teachers or professors.
Conduct a phone interview with candidates, then filter down the list to a few select students.
Conduct an in-person interview, noting if candidates show up on time, communicate well and are personable.
Consider doing a workday trial for the intern. Determine if the position seems like a good fit for both parties.
Finally, set up a regular work schedule with the student. Otherwise, schoolwork and projects may get in the way.
Do I need to pay my facilities intern?
A facilities internship can be paid or unpaid. The U.S. Department of Labor offers six legal criteria that must be applied to determine whether or not an internship must be paid. As a rule of thumb, if compensation is not offered, consider offering to pay travel expenses for the student.
If compensation is offered, check to see if the student’s pay will exceed $600 for the year. Compensation exceeding $600 will require the student to be counted as a 1099 contractor by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
Preparing your Facilities Intern for a Successful Career
Choosing to hire an intern is a big decision for a facilities department, but oftentimes, the benefits will outweigh the challenges. A facilities internship is a great way to see a student’s true potential in the field. Oftentimes, young minds are thirsty for knowledge and eager to learn.
To help your intern explore the industry more deeply, consider providing him or her with informative tools that list useful tricks of the trade, such as the Preventative Maintenance Toolkit and Facility Manager's Pocket Field Guide.
Has your facilities department hired an intern and seen positive results? If so, tell us about it in the comments below!