Why did your organization decide to host international interns?
This was a top-down program, with the vision from the regional CEO (Patrick Bass), support by regional HR (Matt), recruiting by the director (me), and support from the business areas (Bilstein) that have locations in USA and Mexico. It was a strategic initiative to develop skills for our Mexico facilities, leveraging top students who were interested to intern in the USA.
What surprised you/your team about your international interns?
These students were excellent! They made a good first impression and continued to perform well in their roles and beyond. We were able to recruit top engineering students from the top university in Mexico City. A surprise was that the first semester we had three female engineers (shown above), who were excellent. All had excellent English language and project team experience (a screening criteria), but that we were able to recruit females in a male dominated field was a nice surprise.
How did your organization help the interns feel welcome?
The HR manager for the site where they were assigned met them at the airport and made sure they got into housing without any problems. He also had his daughter – who was studying Spanish – meet them early. Having some local contact with experience hosting international students was a big plus!
What is the best piece of advice you have for other companies interested in the J-1 Intern program?
It was great working with Spirit to take care of all the visa requirements, which can be daunting if taken alone. When our legal team reviewed the J-1 program requirements, they were concerned about our ability to comply; Spirit’s program took care of making sure we were in compliance and had a successful program.
How has international travel and cultural exchange impacted you professionally and personally?
Personally and professionally, I had a great experience with domestic co-op as a college student, and then spent 3 years in Germany later in my career. It is an eye-opening experience to live and work in another country. I would recommend it for all students to get some exposure internationally. While in Germany at an international company, the students we would hire ALL had international experience. That is less common for American students, but even more important. It is a world economy. Students today should study a foreign language and live abroad for a semester at least!
Special thanks to Paul Babin, Retired Director of Technology, Innovation, and Sustainability of thyssenkrupp North America! Click here to learn more about how you can host international J-1 students.