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June 10, 2011
Engineering technology students at Piedmont Technical College prepare for an exciting career through hands-on training in state-of-the-art computer designed CAD laboratories and under the instruction of knowledgeable instructors. But, nothing prepares them more than actually going to work through the internship program. And PTC students are in demand.
“I get calls on a regular basis, asking for interns,” said Sandy Warner, department head for engineering technology.
Warner said she saw the need to give the students more real-world experience. In 1995, the college received a grant to set up apprenticeships in several program areas including the engineering graphics technology.
“We had a class already established that would provide the ideal platform for this,” said Warner. “The mechanical drawing applications course consisted of a CAD graphic design project that could be easily adapted to an internship program.”
Eaton Corporation was one of the first companies to come on board for the project and has welcomed interns every year of the program. Other companies that have participated include Cooper Power Systems, Capsugel, Fujifilm Manufacturing U.S.A., Inc. and Georgia-Pacific. The program averages eight to 10 students per year, and is restricted to students who are in their final semester of classes. But getting an internship isn’t as easy as registering for the class.
To be considered for an internship, the students have to fill out an application, submit a resume and take part in the interview process. David Rosenbaum and Brenda Edwards from the Student Success Center meet with students for two weeks prior to the submission date to prepare them for what to expect, working on resumes and interviewing skills. Since they are looking for potential employees, all of the interviews and decisions are made by the companies.
“Capable interns are in high demand for many of the local businesses,” said Christina Knight, EGT instructor. “Students are encouraged to approach the internships just like they would if they were seeking employment. The instructors have to approve the company and recommend the intern, but the companies make the decisions on who to ‘hire’ for the positions.”
Warner said the program offers not only the experience in the field, it gives the students the confidence they need to know they can do the job.
“Coming in, I was nervous because in the classroom, you have your teachers to fall back on,” said Rebecca Benson, an EGT graduate from Saluda who recently completed an internship with Georgia-Pacific. “Coming into industry, you know your teachers are not within arm’s reach. But everybody here has been kind, courteous and helpful. And I’ve found I can do this.”
The success rate of the program speaks volumes for the quality of education the students are receiving. More than 50 percent of the students who participate in the program are hired by the company where they intern, and many more find jobs in the field immediately upon graduation. Of the eight students who completed the most recent round of internships, five found jobs.
“It’s a win/win situation for us, the college and the community,” Knight said. “The students receive their academic instruction from Piedmont Tech and their real-world training with local companies.”
The companies who work with the interns are pleased with the quality they are receiving as well.
“I started as an intern and then started an internship program,” said Phil Orr, asset availability leader at Georgia-Pacific who oversaw Benson’s work. “She’s done everything I hoped she would and more. We were the guinea pigs for an internship program in the maintenance and engineering project area, but I think we’ve proven the worth of it.”
The students in the mechanical engineering technology program have begun looking into internships and the electronic engineering program is exploring the possibility of adding internships as well, Warner said.
“It’s a good, positive thing for the students and the industries,” Warner said.
For more information on the opportunities available in the engineering technology program, contact Warner at (864) 941-8466 or at email@example.com.