Wayne State engineering students find internships despite COVID-19 and its impact on industry
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced students at Wayne State and universities around the globe to transition to remote or online learning environments. But besides turning the educational process on its ear, the ongoing health crisis has had a profound impact on other pathways for student engagement, including internships and co-ops.
Viewed by the College of Engineering as critical experiential learning opportunities that create positive career outcomes, internships and co-ops have been much more difficult to come by for students in 2020. Annual exit surveys show that approximately 40% of graduating Wayne State engineering and computer science students who had already landed a job did so via a past internship or co-op; however, Glassdoor reports that the hiring of interns in the United States was cut in half since early March.
As industries began to re-engage in late spring, many Wayne State students found themselves bucking the downward trend to obtain the real-world experience needed to enhance their employability, proving that not only are they in-demand, but resilient as well.
Civil engineering student Joanna Harkey was worried about falling behind her peers and having to wait until 2021 for her first summer internship until she landed a spot with Intertek PSI, an engineering and testing firm in Farmington Hills. She is working in the quality assurance department on the Gordie Howe International Bridge project.
"This internship has given me great exposure to what it's like to work on a large construction project," said Harkey. "I am learning the small details that go into a project like this, and I am developing skills that will benefit me for the rest of my career."
Harkey is among many Wayne State students showing promise in Detroit's automotive and transportation industries this summer. Alghasimou Ba, a computer technology student, is working on road projects across the city during his operations internship with MDOT. Electrical engineering student Kennadi Rankin is helping develop new technologies for automotive seating through her manufacturing co-op with Faurecia, and biomedical engineering major Chelsea Alarie is testing materials and adhesives on a project for Ford Motor Co. as part of her application development co-op with Henkel Technologies.
"This experience has been so wonderful for me. Henkel does a very good job of teaching," said Alarie. "With some internships, there is a lot of busy work. But every time I come in, I work on projects that are used for the company in a useful way. I feel as though I am making an impact."
According to reporting by Money, 42% of employers polled by the National Association of Colleges and Employers indicated that they moved internship programs to a virtual format. Rachel Akers, a civil engineering major, joined CTI and Associates as an environmental intern and experienced firsthand the "new normal" to which professionals across many industries have been forced to adjust.
"I am grateful that my internship began despite the pandemic, and that my supervisor trusts me to work safely from home," said Akers, who has performed landfill leachate and groundwater sampling as well as methane surface emissions monitoring, data analysis and report writing.
Chemical engineering student Abid Imam is also working remotely as a technical sales intern with Ecolab, a global leader in water and hygiene solutions for the food, health care and hospitality industries. Imam helps his clients conserve water through the company's 3D TRASAR cooling system technology and contributes to an operational task force that identifies costs savings for Ecolab and its customers.
"My internship has helped me gain a further understanding of the principles of chemical engineering that I learned in the classroom," said Imam. "It is also an excellent chance for me to apply my knowledge to a relevant project and allow me to decide what I like doing best."
An estimated eight out of every 10 students in the College of Engineering complete at least one internship prior to graduating. In the summer of COVID-19, Warrior engineers are succeeding in rapidly evolving industries and preparing themselves for whatever the world looks like when they earn their Wayne State degree.
The Wayne State University College of Engineering is proud to celebrate National Intern Day. Visit the photo gallery on Flickr to learn more about where WSU engineering students are working this summer.