ERC President Kelly Keefe Talks Building a Talent Pipeline with Interns

ERC President Kelly Keefe Talks Building a Talent Pipeline with Interns
Kelly Keefe Talks Building a Talent Pipeline with Interns

Cultivating a strong candidate pipeline is essential for any organization’s long-term success. In the Northeast Ohio region alone, 88% of companies surveyed by ERC plan to build their local talent pipeline through internships.  

While internship programs generally require staff time and resources, they also host a wealth of benefits for the company, including increased brand exposure at local colleges and universities, affordable workforce and administrative support, and creative input from new contributors. 

By strategically engaging with interns, organizations can create a sustainable talent pool that brings fresh perspectives and innovative ideas. Here are three strategies based on ERC’s data that can help you effectively attract and retain talented workers through internships. 

88 percent of companies use interns to build their local talent pipeline

Offer Attractive Compensation

A fair and competitive compensation package is a key factor in attracting top talent, even for internship positions. While internships have traditionally been unpaid or low-paid roles, this trend has shifted as companies increasingly recognize the value of compensating their interns well. 

For example, in comparing ERC’s member data from 2023 to 2024, the median pay rate for interns has increased or remained the same, regardless of the specific function the interns are supporting within the organization. 

Offering attractive compensation can include more than just monetary benefits —it can also encompass perks like flexible working hours, networking opportunities, or access to company amenities.

When you provide a competitive package, you not only appeal to high-quality candidates, but you also set the foundation for a positive relationship with prospective employees down the road. 

Expand Your Recruitment Pool to Include Non-Traditional Candidates

To build a diverse and inclusive talent pipeline, consider expanding your recruitment pool to include non-traditional candidates.

While many companies only target college or graduate students from specific programs or institutions, you can tap into a broader range of talent by considering candidates who might not fit the traditional student mold. 

Non-traditional intern candidates may include military veterans, individuals returning to the workforce after a break, those with a unique work history, students pursuing education later in life, or anyone skilled through alternative routes. These candidates often bring unique perspectives, life experiences, and skills that can greatly benefit your team. 

Based on ERC’s data on Northeast Ohio employers, the practice of recruiting non-traditional candidates for internships, including those individuals aged 25 or older, has doubled since 2022.

By being open to non-traditional candidates, you can access a wider range of potential interns who may offer different approaches and insights, enriching your team’s diversity and driving innovation. 

Assist with the Skill Development of Interns

Investing in the skill development of interns is a common practice followed by top companies in Northeast Ohio.

For example, 90% of NorthCoast 99 award-winning organizations provide their interns with formal training opportunities. Additionally, 79% provide their interns with professional development activities, and 92% provide them access to a mentor. 

Training sessions, workshops, and mentorship programs can help interns acquire valuable skills that align with their career goals. These programs can also lead to enhanced loyalty and engagement with your organization, making them more likely to consider your organization as a future employer. 

Northeast Ohio Intern Practices

Leverage Internship Programs to Build a Dynamic Work Environment

Building a robust talent pipeline through an internship program is not just about filling future positions—it’s about creating a dynamic, thriving work environment where innovation and fresh perspectives can flourish.  

By investing in your interns and providing them with meaningful experiences, you’re not only nurturing the next generation of industry leaders, but you’re also enriching your own team with diverse ideas and approaches. Embracing this mindset can pave the way for long-term success and growth for your organization and establish a strong foundation for the future. 


  • Kelly Keefe

    An award-winning business leader and human resources professional, Kelly is the first female president in ERC’s 104-year history.Kelly believes that people are an organization’s most valuable asset, and each person needs the right tools and training to be successful. She lives out this belief daily by providing our staff with coaching, counseling, and skill assessment.