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Making it easier for the next generation of business leaders to STEP into Serco

In 2019, Serco Americas launched the Serco Training and Experience Program (STEP), offering engineering, technical and business internships during the summer for university students.

“STEP is about increasing our connection with our communities,” says Nicole Caliri, Talent & Organizational Development Manager, “while enabling bright, driven undergraduates to better prepare for full-time employment and career management. Through STEP we provide opportunities to discover exciting career paths and build strong foundations of experience through real work in a professional environment.”

Developed in partnership with local universities, STEP offers accredited internships where interns submit time in the programme for university credit towards graduation.

“We provide Serco interns an unparalleled grounding in the real world of work – to open their eyes and, in the words of our CEO, ‘get their hands dirty’. We challenge interns and build their placements around targeted developmental experiences.”

STEP is promoted through university outreach and direct engagement, with a focus on diversity throughout. All applicants (approximately 7,000 to date) pass through a formal recruitment process and are carefully assessed for cultural fit and key management competencies.

“My interview with my manager is part of what convinced me to join Serco – he was really interested in helping me grow my skills and helping me explore whatever path interested me. STEP helped me tremendously in terms of personal and professional development. I learned how to work and communicate in a professional environment and gained valuable skills I will use for the rest of my career.”
- Jaskaran Pannu, STEP intern

From May to August, the interns work a 36-hour week, reporting to a line manager in the business. Formal training and development is based on a ‘lite’ version of the Serco Americas ‘PM PLUS’ Boot Camp Program:

“We adapted our management training program to intern level and filled in the gaps,” explains Nicole. “We cover all the basics and beyond, from how to use Microsoft Office to how to manage upwards. Our course instructors are our business leaders, sharing invaluable insights into what we do and how we do it. This level of immersive education from a top government contractor helps our interns to become well-rounded and competitive candidates for future employment.”

The ‘Intern Challenge’ is a STEP highlight:

“We challenge the interns to work together in small teams and identify potential improvements for the business or community. Supported by senior leadership mentors, they collaborate on projects over the course of their summer – problem solving, developing solutions, and presenting to Executive Management.” 

“I chose STEP for its emphasis on developing us as professionals. Beyond that, the focus on values and contributing to the community distinguish STEP from similar programs, while the proximity to senior leadership – a seat at the table when experienced professionals and great minds innovate and make decisions – is an extraordinary opportunity for an intern.”
- Alex LeFavi, STEP intern

A principal objective for STEP is helping the business to develop new entry-level talent:

“We begin by identifying hi-potential talent from universities,” says Nicole, “candidates who display a strong desire for growth and our Values. Then, through our program, interns are prepared to transition into a role at Serco, aligned to the needs of the business, which is our primary goal.”

The business has responded very positively:

“Managers really value this program; STEP is making it quicker and easier for them to find high-potential early career talent. Come the end of the summer, placement managers don’t want the program to conclude.”

“I was looking for an internship in a multicultural and reputed company. I was amazed by my experience at Serco, which was different than other internships I have had. From my first day, I was warmly welcomed and accepted as a team member. I was performing real tasks to solve complex problems. Every day was a new experience.”
- Azi Tarshizi, STEP intern

From the first two cohorts, 25 interns have already been hired into full- and part-time Contracts, Engineering, HR and IT roles.

“We’re very proud that so many have decided to pursue their chosen careers with Serco,” says Nicole.

While STEP is all about developing the interns, the business has discovered that the learning flows both ways:

“We might be teaching them how to do it ‘the Serco way’ but they’re teaching us how to improve on that – challenging the status quo, keeping us on our toes, and giving us insight into what motivates and excites tomorrow’s leaders.”

Covid-19 did not force STEP to take a step backwards in 2020:

“While many organizations cancelled their intern programs; we took this as a challenge to lean on our Values and innovate our program, moving to an 100% virtual environment. Everything was managed remotely, and we focused on keeping everyone connected and supported. We’re planning to do the same again, and more, in 2021.”

“I was very grateful that Serco chose to continue the program and astonished by how well and quickly they transitioned to virtual internship, thoughtfully planning experiences that were still innovative and challenging while staying in close contact with everyone. Serco’s mission-focused response to Covid-19 made it clear to me: these are the type of people from whom I want to learn.”
- Alex LeFavi, STEP intern