Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Connecting with students in the COVID-19 era

Schwan’s Company college relations team shares how they stayed connected with students through the pandemic

March 30, 2021 — At Schwan’s Company, an area that the recruiting department is especially proud of is its college relations team. This team is responsible for connecting Schwan’s Company and college students with the right opportunities to start a meaningful career in the consumer and packaged goods industry, while also serving as an excellent resource to bring in fresh, top talent to the organization.

Activities from this team — like the internship program and on-campus recruitment — were put to the test this past year with COVID-19.

“We put a lot of strategic work into building these programs so students and our company can get the most out of it. Traditionally, we put emphasis on finding meaningful ways to engage with students through in-person activities,” said Sarah Rohne, manager of college relations. “Like so many across the country, COVID-19 challenged us to swiftly adapt and find alternative solutions. Thankfully, we were able to creatively continue our college relations efforts this past year and even through today, where we are still operating in a virtual space.”

2020 Virtual Internship Program

One of the company’s most popular college relations initiatives each year is the internship program. In the summer of 2020, this transitioned to a virtual program.

The main goal of Schwan’s Company’s summer internship program is to provide meaningful learning and development opportunities so that interns can gain a better understanding of how they would like to pursue their careers after school. The program is mutually beneficial as it is also a primary driver of the company’s recruiting strategy for entry-level roles. When students join the internship program, the company is also striving to provide the best possible on-the-job and development experience that may lead them to choose Schwan’s as their employer of choice upon graduation.

With the interns working remotely in 2020, the projects, team engagement and training activities were hosted with Microsoft Teams, LinkedIn and other online tools. Each intern was assigned a manager and mentor, who were Schwan’s employees and meant to serve as resources throughout their internship, and the college relations team served as a thread to support the program’s overall success.

The summer 2020 fully remote virtual internship program included:

  • Microsoft Teams meet and greets with executive committee members.
  • Intern cohort coffee chats and weekly wrap-up discussions.
  • One-on-one talent development with an employee mentor.
  • Intern-only weekly “Four Square” networking and cross-information sharing.
  • Webinar lunch-and-learn meetings on topics such as the company management philosophy, time-management and more.

Sarah said the team is currently preparing for the 2021 program, which begins on May 17. Approximately 20 interns will be working in manufacturing, finance and accounting, human resources, information services and more across corporate offices and seven plant locations

2021 Continued Campus Connections

In addition to our annual internship program, the college relations team has also traditionally participated in numerous on-campus recruitment events and visits. These activities were also significantly altered this past year with colleges, universities and employers shutting down in-person activities to keep their staff and students safe.

“By the fall of 2020, it was clear that there wasn’t an exact date when people would resume in-person activities and many organizations did an excellent job at finding solutions to still connect via platforms like Zoom or Microsoft Teams,” Rohne said. “Our team at Schwan’s was no exception and as opportunities opened up with colleges and universities to connect with students virtually, we were fully onboard.”

Some of the virtual national campus engagement and recruiting activities the Schwan’s college relations team participated in included:

  • Participating in online career fairs to talk with students one-on-one in chat room discussions. Many of these were hosted by campus career services departments.
  • Zoom information sessions to speak directly to student groups, diversity associations and classes. These often included a presentation about Schwan’s and a Q&A for students to learn more about the company.
  • Schwan’s created a social-media campaign — #campustocareers — that showcased quotes and videos from recent Schwan’s interns on Schwan’s Company social-media channels.
  • Regular student interviews with Schwan’s hiring managers and human resources partners through Microsoft Teams.

“While we generally believe in-person engagement is best, we do have to celebrate the work that we were able to achieve virtually this last year,” Sarah said. “The next step for students from college to career is a crucial one, and we know students were feeling the pressures of how the COVID-19 shutdowns would impact their transition from academics to professional opportunities. I am proud of how we were all able to adapt.”

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