By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium
BENTON HARBOR — Arindam Mukherjee didn’t know what Whirlpool was before applying for an internship there.
He said he noticed the circular Whirlpool Corp. logo at a booth set up at the engineering career fair his school was holding. Mukherjee, an aerospace engineering major entering his senior year at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, spoke to a few recruiters from the home appliance maker and agreed to apply for an internship.
“I walked up and started talking to them because I thought it was a cool name,” he said. “The rest is history.”
The fair led to a 12-week stay in Benton Harbor.
Rooming with other Whirlpool interns at Lake Michigan College’s student housing, Mukherjee would go on to work with a select team on top-load washing machines.
Mukherjee was one of more than 150 interns in the U.S. to sign on with Whirlpool this summer. The types of internships vary based on their majors and the departments they are assigned to.
Whirlpool offers a variety of business and engineering internships. Engineering is more straightforward due to its product development focus. The internships come in human resources, finance, sales, marketing, design, supply chain, manufacturing and information systems.
Last Friday was the end of the 12-week internship for many. The interns ranged from high school students that come in from the Benton Harbor Promise program to graduate students looking for a career path.
Return on investment
Whirlpool typically finds interns to work during the summer in the North American region.
Globally, there are substantially more internships, and the range for those can be from a summer 12-week internship to a full year. On average, between 300 and 350 interns work globally.
Laura Goos, Whirlpool’s university relations senior manager, plays a big part in recruiting new workers. Gaining new employment correlates to an intern pipeline that the Benton Harbor-based company has been developing for years.
According to recent hiring trends, the majority of Whirlpool interns return on a full-time basis.
“We actually have a really good conversion rate. We typically convert about 50 percent into full-time roles,” Goos said. “We also convert another 25 percent into return interns. Not everyone is ready to graduate. So, that’s a total of 75 percent that come back in some fashion or another. But those are just U.S. numbers.”
Because such a high percentage of interns return full time or once again as an intern, Goos said they fill about 85-90 percent of their jobs for the following year in fall recruiting efforts.
“In the fall of 2016, we are actually filling roles for people to begin in May and July of 2017,” she said. “I think the way we go to campus and show up changes, and has evolved with the growing technology we have.”
Between September and November, Whirlpool recruiters attend about 150 events at various colleges and universities. Fall is considered “The Big Show.”
“We are the most active on campus during the fall,” Goos said. “That time of year doesn’t just mean recruiting either. We also have all of our intern conversions around that time that happen when people finish their internships.”
Whirlpool hasn’t always been a global company.
Since it has spread its reach to consumers, Goos said they often look for interns with a high grade point average, have leadership experience in extracurricular activities and past internships.
Zaria Barnes, who is in her first year of attaining her MBA at the University of Rochester, said she was surprised by the global impact from her internship. Barnes is from Queens, N.Y., and is concentrating on analytics and technology in business. She was fortunate to meet a Whirlpool recruiting team at a pre-MBA conference.
Like Mukherjee, she didn’t know much about Whirlpool. However, before Barnes left the luncheon, she had met the entire team.
“I ran into one of the team members during the conference. I was looking for food and he offered to help me,” Barnes said. “It was mutually beneficial because I got a good meal out of it and they had a completely empty table. By the time I made it from the back of the ballroom to the front, I had introduced myself to everyone.”
Barnes worked in global information systems at Whirlpool this summer. Her project dabbled in marketing where she would interact with the people who manage various Whirlpool websites.
The goal of the project was to map out all of the inefficiencies in an effort to improve customer experience.
“We have over 100,000 employees, yet I feel like being here at the headquarters, I feel like I know everyone,” she said. The feeling was mutual 10 weeks into her internship when Barnes visited the Clyde plant in Ohio.
“That was the first time I was outside the headquarters’ bubble,” she said. “I got to engage with plant workers to see the other side of things. I still have that same feeling like I know everyone I interact with.