One day, an intern showed up at the Washington State Department of Enterprise Services (DES), and Jim Sampson saw an opportunity. Sampson, a desktop support specialist for the department, took the intern in tow, gradually introducing him to all facets of the job. Something clicked, and Sampson became the go-to guy for internships.

Now, Sampson coordinates a successful internship program, helping local community college students get their feet wet in government IT work and filling the tech-talent pipeline for the DES. Of the 13 interns he has mentored personally, 12 continued beyond their internships and six are permanent DES staff members. One of Sampson’s former interns now outranks him — a fact that Sampson points to with pride. And in January, the internship program went departmentwide.

Part of his secret is commitment, said Sampson’s boss, Nick Fuchs. “We look for loyalty,” Fuchs said, “and the primary factor in that is that they like their supervisor and their work environment.” And Sampson works very hard at helping interns make it. “He takes care of them and guides them,” Fuchs said. “He’s former military, and he really exemplifies camaraderie. He’s really committed to making these kids successful.”

Interns are treated the same as any state employee. They face a full employment interview at the agency, sign off on the standard paperwork, and handle work orders selected by agency staff based on their particular skills. But they also get plenty of support. “I’m literally one cubicle away, listening, seeing how they handle the staff,” Sampson said. “It’s not like a supervisory thing — it’s like a peer is there to help them out.”

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Wayne Hanson  |  Staff Writer and Editor of Digital Communities

Wayne E. Hanson has been a writer and editor with e.Republic since 1989, and has worked for several business units including Government Technology magazine, the Center for Digital Government, Governing, and is currently editor and writer for Digital Communities specializing in local government. Hanson was a juror from 1999 to 2004 with the Stockholm Challenge and Global Junior Challenge competitions in information technology and education. He self-published three books of fiction and lives in Sacramento with his wife, Jeannie.