Want more young people to join your team? Try an internship program.

         Photo by Andrej Lišakov on Unsplash


For a long time, we have heard from dealers that they feel the “younger generation” is not interested in the LBM field, and they wonder how to change that?

“Here’s one thing that works – Internships”!

The peak of your season coincides fairly well with the break between spring and fall semesters. Having some extra help during the busiest time, and when you may be covering some vacation days makes great sense.

Depending on the size of your operation, interns can be generalists, or specialists. One area that young interested students can be helpful fairly quickly is in estimating. They rapidly grasp your estimating software, and in short order can handle easier projects like decks, sheds, garages and pole buildings. Freeing up your seasoned associates for complex estimates is a wonderful thing!

Other possibilities are to get the interns into your accounting department, handling A/R and A/P functions. What about working with suppliers to clean up your vendor return backlog? Smaller operations can combine two or three different functional areas.

I recommend you develop a plan that includes how they will be trained and learn to insure they are successful and contribute to the business. Developing job descriptions that are interesting and challenging will go a long way to having a successful intern program.

If the candidates believe the job is going to be stacking lumber and cleaning up the yard, they will move on to other opportunities where they can be more challenged.

Once you have compelling job descriptions, target the closest schools that offer building technologies majors. Find out how the school allows businesses to communicate with students… they vary from college to college.

Develop a nice ten week program… students generally don’t require benefits, so if you want a 40 hour work week, each intern will cost you between 5 and 6k for the summer. Another incentive I have seen work, is offering a bonus at the end of the 10 weeks, that the intern can use towards their tuition. If the program is structured right and they are an asset to the business they will have earned it!

You may find some of these interns really like the LBM business, and come back for another internship, or better yet, want to join your team after they graduate. They are terrific permanent employees, since they already understand your operation, its culture, etc. Depending on the distance, a great intern may also be able to translon to part time while they are in school.

The key to developing their interest is your attitude towards them. If they are looked upon as “part timers”, or “temps”, and loaded up with the worst mindless tasks that no one else wants to do, don’t be surprised when they stop showing up for work, or decide the LBM isn’t for them.  Take some interest in your interns, communicate directly with them, give them some insights into the bigger picture of the business, and you will both feel that it was a great experience, and one that’s worth repeating. Remember the younger generation likes feedback.

This article was written by Tom Ford President & Partner at Impact 180 & Lumber Contacts Inc. Feel free to contact Tom at, [email protected].


Tom is a “lifer” in the LBM business, with strong executive management skills, good product knowledge, and can relate well to people at all levels. He has been involved in retail, contractor sales, light manufacturing, distribution centers and supply chain planning, wholesaling, tool rental, installed sales services, and the acquisition of off-price and closeout merchandise. As President and CEO, he managed both public and privately held businesses, ranging from over 700 million annually, to supervising store operations of all sizes from less than 1.0 million to over 50.0 million within a chain context.