US-based recruiters talk internships during Israel trip

Representatives from Ernst & Young, Citigroup and Deloitte tell local corporate employers: We’ll grab them if you don’t.

By NADAV SHEMER
May 5, 2011 04:37
4 minute read.
US corporate recruiters in Jerusalem

Recruiters 311. (photo credit: Jane Day)

A group of recruiters from some of the biggest US-based multinational firms have met with Israeli companies that take American interns during a week-long visit here.

The delegation – the first of its kind to visit Israel and which heads home Thursday – was hosted by the Jewish Agency’s Masa Israel Journey project, which brings over Jewish young adults to strengthen their ties to Israel and open their eyes to the possibility of aliya. The recruiters included representatives from more than a dozen companies that boast a combined intake of 50,000 new employees each year.

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Dan Black, director of campus recruiting at the auditing firm Ernst & Young and a member of the delegation, told The Jerusalem Post during the visit that big American companies are increasingly looking offshore as they broaden their search for the next generation of managers.

This, he said, is mainly due to an imbalance of age groups that companies ignore at their own peril.

“The baby boomer generation and the gen Ys, the millennials, are both the same size roughly in terms of number of people, and gen X, my generation, is half the size,” Black said. “So I think the critical component of why recruiting from colleges and internships is so important, is because as the baby boomers are retiring , you can’t just replace them with the next age group, so we need more of the younger hires to grow into this business.”

Black, who is responsible for Ernst & Young’s recruitment in the Americas and in Israel, told how he and his fellow delegates had shared their knowledge of best practices with counterparts in Israel, a country American multinationals clearly see as having great potential – even though the concept of internships here is still very much in its developmental stage.

“[Part of coming here] was to help Masa and the employers here to understand how and why the internship model works so well…. Internships are not something that’s really done in Israel, and there are some obvious reasons for that: [Young people] graduate and they go into the army.”



Nonetheless, he said, considering the model, and not just for Masa participants, could help Israeli companies attain success.

During their visit, the recruiters met with some of the approximately 2,000 young adults already interning at Israeli firms under the auspices of Masa. Such interns are generally placed in unpaid positions for five to 12 months. They also learn Hebrew and travel throughout Israel as part of the program.

Trudy Steinfeld, who has visited Israel previously in her job as New York University’s assistant vice president of career development, told the Post that the majority of the visiting recruiters were seeing what Israel has to offer – up close – for the first time.

Many of these recruiters, she said, “meet in the US and globally in what we call ‘benchmarking groups’ to compare best practices, but there has never been a trip to take a look at what is going on in Israel with the concept of internships, which is a new and confusing concept, and also to have [American] employers learn about the culture, to learn about the workplaces here.”

Steinfeld added that global companies were now placing college students in internships as early as their sophomore year, as they realize that to compete with rival companies, they must “have a way of extracting” potential employees as early as possible.

On Wednesday, a day before flying home, Black and three other delegates – Cisco Systems’ Jim McGrath, Citigroups’s Deborah Bertan and Whirlpool’s Jeff Beavers – appeared on a panel before representatives of Israeli companies.

McGrath drew on his own experience in the field when talking about how to improve internship programs.

“What I think we did wrong [in the past], and we learned from it, was that at first we just thought it was a numbers game, to bring in as many interns as we could,” he said, adding that without a plan, summer internships could be “extremely tedious.”

“Interns want to be challenged,” he explained. “They are proud of their education, they’re proud of their skills.

They want to show you what they can do... and what we ended up learning is that the intern population was going to be the feeder for full-time work.”

Like his colleagues, McGrath was overwhelmingly positive about what he had seen in Israel, and imparted some tailor- made advice for how to improve Masa and similar programs.

“One of the things that struck me is that there is the whole Zionist view of why you are doing this, but you have to think beyond that to make it successful,” he said.

“The other part of this is that they’re unpaid. You have to think beyond that as well, because I think you could fall into a trap of doing this because it’s the right thing to do instead of doing it because you want to derive value from it.”

If Masa approaches its internship programs from that new perspective “it will build a brand” for its products, McGrath said.

“It’s very important for you all to understand,” he explained, “that what you’re competing against is us, and we’re back in the States recruiting these same students, and we pay them.”


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