One of the hardest aspects of parenting is watching your kids worry about their futures. Everything you’ve done up to now is to prepare them for Real Life and The Real World. When they enter post-secondary education, it all hits the fan. Not only are they technically grown-ups (they’re still babies), but they must important decisions that may affect their entire lives.
What will they major in?
What type of experience do they need to find employment in their chosen field?
How do they even know what that chosen field is?
Right now, that’s where we’re at with Number 2. He’s strategically (and frantically) searching for the most amazing summer internship. And for two reasons: 1. to gain important practical application of his studies and work experience; 2. to figure out what they hell he wants to do with his life.
This is why co-op programs and internships are so important. They offer students an opportunity to walk the talk, see what’s out there and what they actually like to do, and finally, put what they’ve learned to good use.
The flipside: internships allow senior managers and corporations access to the future. Because that’s what our children are—the leaders, thinkers, and innovators of tomorrow.
According to Walter Surface Technologies, a privately owned Canadian business and leader in the metal working industry, as Baby Boomers begin to retire, Canada is going to be pressed to find qualified leaders who understand the score. That’s why they’ve introduced Next to Succeed, an innovative and very exciting paid internship program designed to tackled Canada’s leadership succession challenges by fostering future young leaders with access to training, development, and growth opportunities.
This unique program offers two Canadian students the chance-of-a-lifetime: to work side-by-side with upper management at Walter Surface Technologies. Now in it’s second year, and poised to expand, Next to Succeed is an incredible opportunity for promising students.
I had the opportunity to chat with Pierre Somers, Chairman and CEO of Walter Surface Technologies, and one of last year’s interns, Ryan Boyd. Their answers were infused with passion for the program, as you’ll see. (Note: I’ve edited and augmented parts of the conversation for clarity).
Can you tell me a bit about why you think the program is so wonderful?
Pierre: It’s a great opportunity for management, collaborators and board members to be able to interact at this level with millennials and feed off the intergenerational expertise. Of course we get it as parents, but to have millennials interacting, sitting in, contributing their mindset is a great privilege
Ryan: the way the internship was proposed and the way the opportunities were described were so unique. Not only was it paid, but it gave me the exposure to things that people may not be exposed to over their whole careers, like board meetings or business travel in Europe. I worked on a major project that’s being considered for implementation across whole company. I wasn’t just working in the mailroom or getting coffee. I got to work on real projects.
Why do you feel a program like Next to Success is key to the future of Canadian business?
Pierre: The data shows that there are two boomers retiring and only one person ready to step in to take their place who is even half or near ready to do so. That’s why programs like this are important: they open the horizons of millennials to work in a business environment, help Canadian companies who are trying to keep their headquarters in Canada, and prevent brain drain.
We’re leading by example for other corporations to see how to keep the talent here instead of leaving the country for other opportunities. We want to get these students early and let them see the opportunities.
What are you looking for in these candidates? Any stand-out qualities?
Pierre: For us, we go by the core values of our company, what we call The Walter Way. We’re looking for team players. This is our universal value.
We’re also looking for someone who wants to learn the skills necessary to success (sic). Our company is a family business. We started in 1952. I was mentored and educated by my father. I thought that I could do anything my father could do without any problem. But what I did not have at 23 was the patience that my father had. It drove me crazy how patient my father was. Think of it this way: you need to go up the stairs one step at a time. But young people want to take the elevator without taking all the steps. Then you fall down because you don’t have the baggage to take you.
Emotional intelligence and patience comes with experience. But it’s recognizing you need to learn them, that’s a quality we’re looking for (sic). That comes with experience.
Ryan: Sheer importance of always being willing to learn. Always asking questions, always wanting to know and be willing to ask. There are people who want to help you and want to teach you if you are willing to put in the work. When an opportunity presents itself, they want you to succeed.
What are some skills students need to become leaders in today’s business environment?
Ryan: They need to start networking right away and make their contacts, and think about themselves and their personal branding. For example, I think of myself as a company: Ryan Boyd Inc. Invest in your primary asset (you!) as a company. Sure, have a life, but professionally be very focused on your goals.
For me, I wasn’t so focused on one exceptional opportunity in one field but I kept my eyes open for potential opportunities for exposure and experience. By not limited myself to one field I was able to look for opportunities that presented a variety of skill building and networking. Also, don’t short change yourself by taking unpaid internships. Find a company that values your work.
What types of students are you looking for?
Pierre: Primarily engineering and business students because that our company strengths but candidates can apply from a more general background, such as financial background As time goes on, Next to Succeed will be developing and growing to incorporate other strengths and other needs.
What are some things young people can do on their own time to build their skills?
Pierre: Get involved, get off the couch, participate, and try to find your passion. In whatever it is.
Ryan: If you’re hoping to get to the next level, you’re going to put the work in and then you can reap the fruits of your labours.
Why is mentoring so important?
Pierre: It gives for the mentor the ability to share their invaluable 30-40-5o years of knowledge. Not for just the business skills but the perspective on finding balance in your life. Especially if you want to be a leader and finding a way to balance business and personal.
Ryan: even observing the meetings you get the opportunity to observe the dynamics and decisions and strategies and planning that are being made after years of experience and to see how all that manifests itself across the business and organization. This provides another level of understanding.
Ryan: During my internship I felt open to ask questions and ask why and tell me more. It was so fantastic. I would hope there’s someone like that for everyone at their first job who is willing to share their experience. I would encourage any student to take a look at this program. It’s as good as it sounds. It will exceed your expecations. The Bonus: because it’s open on a national scale, your housing expenses will be paid over the summer.
Next to Succeed
What it is: a talent search for two of Canada’s brightest post-secondary students
Where it is: Montreal
Who can apply: students across Canada
How to apply: visit walter.com between February 20, 2015 & April 17, 2015. Two interns will be selected on May 8, 2015 by the Walter Surface Technologies’ leadership committee to complete the internship program, taking place from June to August, 2015.
The tour: Students from Canada’s top business schools will have the chance to learn more about Next to Succeed during a national campus speaking tour led by Pierre Somers, and Ryan Boyd, the internship program recipient of last year’s Objectif: Relève. Aspiring students will also have the opportunity to create an elevator pitch-style video highlighting their skills sets and job goals to accompany their internship application through an on campus activation at Toronto’s Rotman School of Business and the Alberta School of Business Students.