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Distributors that recruit on college campuses only when the economy is good or they need to fill specific positions risk losing name recognition with the next generation of talent, according to Scott Jochum of the University of Nebraska at Kearney's Industrial Distribution program in Distribution Training Ground.
"If a company takes off a year, two years, three years, they're like a new company when they come back," Jochum says. "They're starting all over again. It's just like it is in the industry – companies have to also build relationships with students. You just can't show up and have success immediately."
UNK's ID department hosts career events twice a year, giving distributors the chance to interview students for internships and full-time jobs. The companies that come regularly, even if they don't have any openings, have sustained recruiting success, according to Matt Howe, a 2010 UNK ID graduate based in Omaha, NE, as a profit center manager for BgB Supply, a subsidiary of Consolidated Electrical Distributors Inc., Irving, TX.
"You can really see the shortsightedness of some companies because they come when times are good and don't come when times are bad," Howe says "We're committed to stay here regardless of the economy because we want the long-term relationships. Some of the students we talk to twice a year, every year, until they graduate."
One of the companies that learned this lesson the hard way was Applied Industrial Technologies, Cleveland, OH. The company consistently attended UNK career events but had to skip 2009 to 2011 when its sales and management program was temporarily suspended.
"By missing out during that time frame, students didn't know us," says Erin Owen, manager of staffing and career development. "We came back after the recession and students would ask, 'Is this your first year here?' That was a hard lesson to learn. We experienced the challenges that can occur when you step away from a school that's important to you. For schools with industrial distribution programs, it's so competitive to hire their students that you can't walk away."
Read more about UNK's ID program and the role it plays for companies looking to recruit in Distribution Training Ground.