Internships can provide students with valuable applied learning opportunities as well as a way to test out different career paths. They also serve as a powerful talent pipeline for businesses. Let’s take a look at the Wichita internship scene and hear from those in the thick of career exploration.
WHY INTERNSHIPS MATTER
The internship: It is a rite of passage and an essential tool of the American workforce. But over the last half-century, its function has changed dramatically. The days of fetching coffee and mindless grunt work are over. Internships have evolved into real-world opportunities for students to apply their education, dip their toes in different fields/roles and build their resume. This is especially important due to the growing number of employers who prioritize candidates with experience for entry-level roles.
For employers, internships can inject new life into the business and build their future workforce. Successful intern recruitment involves showcasing not only the company and job opportunities, but also the employer’s city. For candidates from the region, internships can shine a new light on a place they thought they knew. And for potential interns from outside the area, the city’s culture and amenities can be a major selling point.
“Research has shown that when someone comes to visit a city or region, they're much more likely to consider moving there,” said Anne-Marie Coughlin, executive vice president of talent at Greater Wichita Partnership. “Bringing interns to Wichita gives our city new ideas and diverse perspectives. It can help us continuously grow and evolve our region.”
But for many Wichita employers, promoting our city is easier said than done.
“Local businesses are really good at selling themselves when it comes to attracting talent,” said Meghan Carver, director of communications at Greater Wichita Partnership. “But there’s been a lack of awareness and knowledge of Wichita. Our goal is to come alongside our local businesses with resources and expertise on how to sell Wichita to talent.”
Wichita is kind of a maverick. We want to do things our own way. We have these great entrepreneurial roots... We want interns to understand that they also have those same opportunities...Meghan Carver
In 2018, the Greater Wichita Partnership stepped up with resources for companies looking to attract interns. They created a toolkit for employers, established a weekly intern text blast highlighting summer events, started lifestyle and networking initiatives with current company internship programs and organizations like W (formerly Young Professionals of Wichita), and launched the citywide “Choose Wichita” branding campaign centered around the tagline “Relentlessly Original.” Efforts like these work to connect talent to the broader cultural makeup of Wichita and the possibilities for those who choose to pursue careers here.
“Wichita is kind of a maverick,” said Carver. “We want to do things our own way. We have these great entrepreneurial roots with aviation and all the great brands that made names for themselves here. We want interns to understand that they also have those same opportunities to be ‘Relentlessly Original.’”
Look at Wichita’s internship scene and you’ll find diverse experiences. There are large, global companies with programs that hire 200 interns every summer and smaller businesses and nonprofits that hire individually based on need. Coughlin and Carver note that this range of experiences, along with the cost of living, work-life balance and the real impact young talent can have on the community through involvement and connection, make Wichita an ideal place for interns.
“Our city is so welcoming to our interns and they have the support of our elected officials, business leaders and community leaders,” said Carver. “It’s really a great location for job opportunities, to be connected to our community and to enjoy the lifestyle that we have here. You can live within 30 minutes from the urban core on a farm with chickens if you want to, or you can live affordably within the urban core. You can live the way you want to in Wichita.”
But how do interns feel about Wichita and the opportunities it provides? We talked with two interns working in the city this summer to learn about their impressions.
- From: Junction City, KS
- School: Wichita State University
- Year: Senior
Hi, Jadie. What’s your major?
I'm dual degree so my main focus is in social work, but I'm also doing an interdisciplinary degree through our honors college. My considerations are psychology, social work and dance. My thesis is about access to art classes and art education in Kansas.
What your role at the United Way of the Plains?
I’m the community impact intern. My main role is assisting in the community impact area and working on different projects and programs. I focus on programming that gets more young people involved in their communities and in service. I actually helped write the Youth Service America grant that we received to plan a service learning program for high schoolers.
Why did you choose this internship?
I'm a Rudd Scholar and Pete Nájera [President & CEO of United Way of the Plains] used to be the director of the Rudd Foundation. He knew that nonprofit work and community work were things I was interested in. He talked to me about the internship and I decided that this is something I wanted to do. I learn by doing things. So I knew that this would be the perfect opportunity for me to better understand the things I was studying in school. And I knew that not only was I making an impact on the community around me, but I was also learning so much while doing it. I'm 21 years old and helped write a $15,000 grant. I don't think that's a fairly normal experience. So it was really cool for me to be able to see that process.
Did you look outside of Wichita for internships?
Yeah. I had done some research on summer internships and programs in other cities. I've lived here for three years, but I think there's still a lot for me to learn about Wichita and I really want to become more engaged in the community. I felt this was a really good opportunity to do that.
What are the best lessons you’ve learned from your internship?
Always ask questions. I think that going into this, I knew about one side of nonprofit work and there are so many different factors that go into it. I have this opportunity and my job to make sure that I learn as much as I can from it. I’ve also learned so much about the Wichita community and the resources we have. I think that it connects me not only to the community, but it also allows me to share this knowledge of all these resources with my college friends.
What are your career aspirations?
I definitely want to work somewhere in community development. But I also hope to get a grad degree and possibly guest lecture at colleges. I've had such an amazing experience and it's important to be able to share that information about the community development field with other people.
How has your internship shaped your perception of Wichita?
The different applied learning opportunities have really opened my eyes to what there is in Wichita. It’s really made me realize that there are opportunities for everybody here. I went to the internship kickoff event at the Wave. There were interns from Texas, Oklahoma and all these different people. It was really cool to meet them and talk to them about all the fun experiences we were all having in Wichita.
- From: Wichita, KS
- School: University of Kansas
- Year: Junior
- Major: Mathematics
Welcome, Sam! What’s your role at Textron Aviation?
I'm a HR workforce planning analyst intern. So I'm doing labor market research and forecasting the numbers of skilled and unskilled labor in Wichita, Kansas, and another production markets for Textron Aviation and seeing if there's enough skill out there that we can hire people going forward into the future.
Is there enough skill?
There's definitely a labor shortage. We cannot hire enough people.
Why did you choose this internship?
This is actually my third internship with Textron Aviation. I started out in high school in process engineering where I was basically supporting mechanics on the shop floor. In 2019, I did an internship in human resources analytics and I enjoyed that time. So I was interested in the people's side and what the labor market looked like. I sort of have a mind for statistics and forecasting. So it was a good fit to return here to develop my skills and add some value.
Did you look at other internships outside of Textron Aviation and Wichita?
I applied to the Federal Reserve in Kansas City. They host a lot of analyst interns. It was close to where I was living. And I was excited by the opportunity to get into policy-making and to do statistics for a large government agency with a wealth of data. So those were all the things that factored into that application.
Why have you decided to do multiple internships at one company?
One reason was I knew that there was a flying club, and I knew that if I returned, I would have the opportunity to take lessons and get some flight experience. So when I was considering coming back to Textron Aviation that was definitely a factor in my decision.
What are you hoping to gain from your internship?
I’m really hoping to gain more experience with the software and programs companies actually use to do statistics and data analytics. I’m hoping to build my network of other interns, people and leaders at the company. And ultimately, getting a feel for what a data analytics or a workforce planning analyst job is like in practice and figuring out what kind of job in practice I would want for my future.
What have been your impressions of Wichita since returning for internships?
I don't know if it's because I'm older, but I feel like the city is a little more energetic. The new baseball stadium is beautiful and it just feels like downtown sort of has a more exciting buzz in the air. I remember going all through high school, I thought Wichita was that pretty sleepy town. There’s more to do here now I feel than there was a few years ago. It's still smallish and the price of living is smallish and the community is a smallish size that you can make a lot of connections quickly. I think it would be a good place to start my career.
What lesson have you learned from your internship?
I've learned not to be timid when asking for feedback and help from leaders with work and career advice. Good leaders are more than enthusiastic to help students discover their passion and give feedback on what it takes to be successful in a corporate environment. For example, I just cold emailed the director of engineering and asked to sit down with him and talk about his career. I was completely intimidated and nervous but the meeting went extremely well and he was more than happy to talk with me. That was just an epiphany for me [that] most people want to help others.
What are your career aspirations?
One of the things I want to get out of my internship here is career exploration. I wanted to get exposure to what engineering is like, what information technology is like. So I'm actually considering switching my major to an engineering degree and taking a career pivot thanks to my exposure to engineering at Textron Aviation. I'm really inspired by airplanes and would really love being a pilot. So I'm just keeping an open mind in terms of career goals. But I'm really excited about the opportunities that a math background provides me.
We can play a huge factor in bringing young talent into our city. If you're an employer looking to recruit interns to Wichita, check out the Choose Wichita employer toolkit. If you're an internship candidate looking for the next big step, see all the opportunities Wichita can offer you.