JENKS— OSU Institute of Technology students can now take what they’ve learned in the classrooms and labs on campus and apply it to the factory floor at Kimberly-Clark’s Jenks facility.
This is the first time the manufacturing plant has offered internships to OSUIT students, and its employees and supervisors are seeing the benefits to the facility as well as the students.
Kimberly-Clark’s Jenks site employs just over 500 people and manufactures rolled paper products like toilet tissue and paper towels.
This summer, four students pursuing a Bachelor of Technology degree in Instrumentation from the School of Engineering Technologies are completing their internships at the facility: James Dickens, Ethan Harrison, Michael Noojin and Lori Willis.
The four are spread across the plant in different areas, and each is working with a mentor during their internship.
“It’s gone really well. I’m working on trial testing, helping with all the electrical stuff. I’ve been able to see some of the programming side,” said Wilson, who is the first woman to work on the electrical engineering team. “They’re giving us plenty of training.”
David Price is an electrical engineer at Kimberly-Clark as well as an OSUIT alumnus and intern mentor.
“I can relate to where they are. You need someone to lead you at first,” Price said, and it’s been a successful venture so far. “I think they’re a great resource we haven’t taken advantage of before.”
Dr. Ina Agnew, vice president of student services, said the paid internships— a requirement for the majority of programs at OSUIT— benefit both the employer and student in a variety of ways.
“We have a responsibility to help businesses grow their technical talent pipeline,” Agnew said, but the challenge comes in getting enough students interested in technical careers where there is a high demand for trained and skilled employees.
“By working with industry partners, they make it clear students can make a very good living once they graduate, and they’re willing to invest in our students,” she said.
For the students, going through an internship gives them a sense of job security in a time when a college degree doesn’t always equate to a job in their field of study.
“They’re going to see a clear pathway to a career. They know exactly where this college degree is taking them,” Agnew said.
Harrison said the internship at Kimberly-Clark has been indispensable for his education.
“The internship is more hands-on. The lessons we learned in class we’ve actually got to use here. It’s like a stepping stone to working full time,” Harrison said.
Internships are an opportunity for students to get experience in a real-world environment.
“We can teach them on a machine in the classroom, but until they’re out there facing all the challenges and hazards that can come up in the real world, it’s just a simulation exercise. We want to make sure students are getting that practical hands-on experience,” Agnew said.
The internship program can also help alleviate a major issue that a lot of manufacturers like Kimberly-Clark are facing, said Kevin Richmond, reliability training coordinator at the Jenks site.
“The majority of our workforce that started when the facility opened in the 1990s are still here and starting to reach retirement age. We project in the next five to 10 years a lot of retirements happening,” said Richmond, and the internship program could be the answer. “The facility gets a shot of young blood and we have a chance to evaluate the interns to see if they are a good fit. It also gives them a chance to get some experience.”