the systems view blog

Applying our perspective to industry topics and trends

September 29, 2016

Real-World Experience is the Key to Cultivating Careers: AES Internship Program

By John Meehan

The main goal of college is to enrich students’ lives so that they can find their career path and ensure that soon after their graduation caps are thrown in the air, they will excel in their field. Yet, learning in a classroom setting does not often adequately prepare students for the types of challenges encountered within their chosen industry.

And, particularly in engineering-focused industries, internships are the missing piece.

Not long ago, I was in college myself and preparing for my future by seeking as much real-world experience as I could acquire – but I found that some of my internship experiences, and also those of my peers, tended to be more basic rote exercises in job training and education than actual hands-on opportunities. Now, in my current position as a Mechanical Engineer for AES, I realize more than ever the value of learning outside of the classroom. When the opportunity arose to help formalize the internship program at AES, I jumped at the chance to aid in cultivating the next generation of engineering talent.

As a relatively recent grad, my perspective helped me create formal internship objectives that balance both the learning opportunity for the student and the business advantage for AES. A true win-win!

How Does the AES Internship Program Work?

As I began formalizing our internship program in the summer of 2015, I realized there was a high workload on our current staff that presented various exciting projects for aspiring engineers. By delegating some of the more standard (but important) day-to-day tasks to our interns, we could give them the opportunity to get their feet wet with real, client-driven projects, while allowing our full-time engineers to focus on keeping output high – and also allow them time to proactively plan for the future and continuous improvement.

Our interns take ownership of projects based on a tiered level: priority projects, engineering support, and personal projects. There are opportunities to work on actual customer projects, which give them the exposure to build and enhance their portfolio to include 3D modelling, thermodynamic and fluids calculations, and creating Bills of Material. Interns also conduct research on cutting-edge engineering topics to not only keep AES current on leading trends in the markets we serve, but also to foster superior research and presentation skills that students need to be competitive.

Consistent interaction and communication with the interns is an important part of the experience. We hold weekly meetings and two separate reviews to facilitate their growth and make sure they understand their role and progress.

By the end of the internship, students are well-equipped with the skills that job seekers want, a strong network of contacts, and lasting memories from the experience.

But don’t take it from me. Check out what our accomplished intern Jake Ecker has to say:

“My favorite part of interning at AES was the chance to actively contribute to a customer project. It was satisfying to see what I had designed actually built and sent out, and it was really rewarding to know that the work I’d done in making standard designs could be used practically in the AES engineering team’s day-to-day work. A lot of companies I’ve spoken to at career fairs or in interviews want to see concrete examples of technical aptitude or experience, and being able to show them pictures of my customer-released project is a great talking point to have. I think it quells employers’ concerns about my ability to translate what I’ve learned into a professional product.

Why Is The Program a Win-Win for AES and Interns?

For AES, the benefits of our internship program are tangible:

  • Because our interns are involved in real projects, they play an important supporting role to our team. In the end, the investment allows our engineers to turn projects around more quickly, and focus on more difficult subjects like new designs, quality control, etc.
  • Interns offer fresh perspective on engineering processes and practices. Typically, the questions asked by interns force employees to question their own assumptions, enabling greater learning.
  • We are developing a strong pipeline of talent trained in a niche industry, which we can potentially leverage for future hiring as AES expands.

For our interns, the program provides invaluable hands-on experience:

  • Students will bolster their resume with demonstrable experience in certain concepts and technologies, in a typical company and industry in their field.
  • Interns gain a sense of concrete ownership over their work and often get to see full products and projects to completion.
  • Ultimately, our interns develop a network of mentors who are willing to provide career advice.

How Can You Apply?

All students from local colleges are welcome to apply for the three-month internship experience. Opportunities are available year-round, but many students opt to intern during the summer months when they can dedicate full, eight-hour days to experience the day-to-day life of an engineer.

We typically recruit from major universities in the area, including Temple, Drexel, Penn State, Lehigh and University of Delaware.

If interested, please contact us. I look forward to speaking with you!


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