3M internships adapt to the virtual work world
Jun 22, 2020

Personally and professionally, the pandemic has required everyone to think creatively, move quickly and prioritize differently. The same is true for 3M. When it came time to decide the direction of our internship programs in the U.S. this summer, quick and creative decision making led us to offering interns a virtual experience.

“We wanted to find a way to provide internships at 3M without cancellation because these are amazing opportunities,” said Katie Ketterhagen, student programs and talent pipelining manager at 3M. “The HR leadership team came together quickly and found a solution that we’re proud of.”

In past years, the majority of 3M’s interns in the U.S. were located at our global headquarters in Maplewood, Minn. This year, we’ve made a few adjustments, including adapting to a virtual format for our more than 150 interns, relocating approximately 20 manufacturing-focused interns to sites that are focused on helping build and distribute products that are helping frontline workers during the pandemic, and pushing out the start date of the other internship programs to later this year or the summer of 2021. Outside of the U.S., 3M internships have different timelines and are still being evaluated with everyone’s safety as a priority.

“The response from our interns has been one of surprise and gratitude,” shared Katie. “Many of their friends have had internships cancelled, so our decision to move to a virtual format was received with positivity. Their reactions really demonstrate the type of flexibility, resiliency and collaboration we look for in talent and ask of 3Mers.”

Once the decision was made to move to virtual internships, Katie and her team quickly moved to ensure that each intern had the tools and information needed to create a positive and seamless experience. “Creating a sense of connected community is our ultimate goal with the virtual internships this year,” said Katie. “As we execute on our new virtual program, we’re confident that the interns will want to work for 3M or come back for another internship.”

Traditionally, 3M has a 70 percent offer rate for full-time jobs following an internship – with the ultimate goal of asking interns to return for a future internship or offering them a full-time position, depending on where they are at in their education.

Two internship programs in particular – Finance and Design – have found ways to engage their interns in unique ways in this virtual world.

Finance Internship Program

The Finance intern program has doubled in the past two years in large part because of the personal approach they’ve taken to planning. “We make a conscious effort to know each intern, their interests and their ambitions,” said Tanya Nybakken, Finance intern program lead. “Based on those conversations we’ve been able to create awesome and engaging virtual projects and activities for our undergraduate and MBA interns.”

Each Finance intern will participate in virtual career panels with former Finance interns and non-Finance 3Mers, receive welcome videos from leaders, be placed into mentorship programs and will present their final project to the chief financial officer and other Finance leadership via Microsoft Teams. “These are all impactful moments for making connections and building community, especially the opportunity to present to the CFO,” shared Tanya. “That’s a huge moment of visibility that many other companies don’t provide.”

Design Internship Program

For the 12 Design interns located in the U.S., they will first begin with a week-long Design Base Camp that focuses on brand training, design thinking, virtual collaboration tool training, and virtual meet ups and chats with Design leadership. Following the Base Camp onboarding, each intern will be virtually immersed in two to three projects currently happening in our business design teams, specifically focusing on graphic design, product design, virtual reality and user experience design.

“When we shared the update that the internship was moving to a virtual format and provided more details on what the program would look like, the interns were nothing but positive,” said Karyn Roszak, senior global design talent development manager. “One intern commented on how this approach really demonstrated the innovation at 3M.”

In fact, going virtual has the Design team considering how to expand the internship program. “We’re in the very early stages of discussions, but a virtual format removes the barriers of time and location, which could allow us to create a year-round program with talent from around the globe.”

Optimized Operations Experience

While some internships naturally lend themselves to a virtual format, there are others that require hands-on experience, such as the Optimized Operations (O2) experience – a manufacturing and supply chain-focused program for engineering, supply chain, data analytics, environmental, and health and safety graduates. “Our program typically starts with our interns at 3M’s headquarters for a few week of training before venturing out to one of our plants or distribution centers, but due to the pandemic, we had to adjust the program quickly.” said Colleen Tahnk, strategy development and O2 manager.

Colleen and team identified the key 3M facilities that are manufacturing and distributing products for those fighting the pandemic on the frontlines and assigned their O2 interns to a location that would best fit their degree. “We made a conscious effort to find a location where they could be alongside a few other fellow interns and have helped them find housing,” shared Colleen. “Safety for each intern is a priority for us. After safety comes learning.”

Look to the 3M News Center throughout the next few months for more updates on the O2 internship program, in addition to other coverage of what 3M is doing to help the people and communities being impacted by COVID-19.

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