Several Lincoln County college students recently completed a summer of hands-on learning at local companies as part of the Industrial Managers Association’s internship program.
In its second year, the opportunity is designed to give students who return home for the break a chance to put their education to real-world use at some of the county’s biggest manufacturing employers.
It also has the goal of opening their eyes to not only the career possibilities in manufacturing, but also in the community in which they grew up.
The Lincoln Economic Development Association acts as a clearing house for program applicants, though each position is designed by the individual industries.
Laura Cole, a 2012 graduate of West Lincoln High School now beginning her second year at UNC-Charlotte (though she already has junior standing), has known what career she wants to have since seventh grade.
She is currently pursuing a double major in international business and marketing and spent her summer working at Tenowo, a German-owned nonwoven-textile company in Lincolnton.
“As a member of the Business Honors Program at UNC-Charlotte, I am constantly encouraged to participate in internship opportunities,” she said. “Not only do they teach you how to work within the workplace, but they can also be great experiences that help lead up to your ultimate career goals.”
With Tenowo being an international business, it was the “perfect place” for her to get some field experience, she said.
She worked under the quality manager, helping to convert files into Microsoft Word documents, while also completing various organizational tasks as needed by other managers.
“I learned new ways of working with Microsoft Office, communicating with fellow co-workers, and it really motivated me to continue my chosen career path within international business,” she said of the experience.
Lothar Hackler, president and CEO of Tenowo, said Cole’s time spent on upgrading and transferring the quality-management system will allow the company to incorporate enhanced features and make the total system much more user-friendly.
“We were very blessed to have a young, capable woman with us,” he added.
This was the company’s second year participating in the program, and Hackler said it will “definitely” continue to do so. In addition to interesting students in today’s manufacturing possibilities, it also allows industries to get specific, defined projects done in a timely and concentrated way, he said.
Likewise, it provides a chance to “try and explore things we normally would not spend resources on,” he said.
Another student participant in this year’s IMA summer-internship program said the opportunity gave him the assurance that his education is on track with what he hopes to someday do.
Starting his junior year at the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), John Helms, who graduated from Lincoln Charter School, is majoring in mechanical engineering and interned with Cataler.
“I learned a lot about process engineering as well as what engineering entails in the manufacturing environment,” he said.
In addition to helping the company’s engineers with their projects, he was also able to head up several of his own in the plant.
“This experience gave me proof that I’m heading in the right direction career-wise,” said Helms.