Inside STEM Professional Practice

by Kara Miller

stemprofpracjan13In just over a year, the STEM Professional Practice Program has shown me, and many other students, all it has to offer. Students have the opportunity to meet with the program’s coordinator to discuss the opportunities offered to them, like constructing a resume and landing an internship. Students are also offered a variety of resources like career development and professional etiquette techniques. The opportunities for students are always growing with new grants and programs being added all the time.

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International Internship for Mechanical Engineering Student

Bryan Zilka is going global with a co-op internship in Seoul, South Korea this summer.

A junior mechanical engineering major in YSU’s College of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, Zilka will be working for light electric vehicle manufacturer MPS Korea Co., Ltd. MPS is based in Seoul and sells products throughout Asia and North America as the maker of small electric vehicles, such as golf carts, electric manufacturing trucks and other applications.

This is the first time the STEM College has been able to send an intern on a foreign assignment in recent memory. Zilka will spend the summer and return in the fall.

Zilka says he’s excited for an opportunity to work abroad in his field. He will be staying in Seoul for nearly two months this summer, working on the product line for an MPS industrial truck.

“Mechanical engineering is a much broader field than I thought it was going into my major,” said Zilka. “So I’m working on figuring out all the opportunities available to me before deciding on a career. That’s what this internship will really help me do.”

Zilka is a member the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and the Honors Program at YSU.

The Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber approached the STEM College in the spring about the opportunity, as in their communication with MPS found a need for engineering support for some of MPS’s upcoming new products. The Regional Chamber’s Vice-President of International Business Attraction, Eric Planey, lauded the efforts by MPS to hire Zilka:  “MPS has given us at the Chamber great insight as to the business climate in Korea, to help attract Korean businesses to the area. Further, we have seen how MPS excels at engineering-driven solutions for its products, and we thought this would be an excellent opportunity for a student like Bryan and the STEM College to showcase their talents.”

MPS was one of three Asian companies that came to Youngstown to attend  the YSU Sustainable Energy Forum, and they were hosted by the Regional Chamber.

New Co-op/Internship initiative for Students

The YSU STEM College has enhanced its cooperative/internship program for students designed to increase employment opportunities.

Sherri Hrusovski, Coordinator of STEM Student Professional Services, plans to have the program in place by the summer semester of 2012. Internships are currently overseen by the different departments within the STEM College. Hrusovski is working to centralize the program so that students and employers can gather information in one central location. She said, “We need a happy medium that works for the department and the new program being developed.”

Students can choose between three types of academic work assignments - internship, co-op, or professional practice. This type of collaboration between the college, students and industry partners benefit all parties involved.

Not only do students gain valuable knowledge in their field, they build relationships within the industry improving their employment opportunities after graduation. Employers get a chance to work with students to determine if they can add value to their company on a permanent basis. Employers can share knowledge and cost for research projects by building relationships within the University. The STEM College benefits as well by creating new partnerships with employers to further research opportunities and collaborative efforts.

Hrusovski plans to develop new industry relationships with companies like BP Corporation, First Energy, GE Lighting and JM Smucker Company. She is developing new marketing pieces and establishing electronic networking opportunities. She is working on a link accessed through the STEM website where students, faculty, and employers can find pertinent information on various features of the professional practice services and programs. Employers can learn how to post internships and cooperative education jobs as well as how to recruit students on campus. Employers interested in finding more information about the program and posting positions can email STEM.jobs@ysu.edu.

Hrusovski is also working with the Williamson College of Business Administration to implement a central database, PPOD (Professional Practice On-line database), which stores student and employer information and allows them to easily connect with one another. For more information on PPOD, employers can visit the PPOD website.

Students and employers can also connect through mediums like the YSU Job Expo and Interview Day where students sign up to attend interviews for either internship/co-op or full-time opportunities upon graduation. They can interview with prospective employers like American Environmental Group, Farmers National Bank and CMI Industry Americas, Inc.

Hrusovski encourages all students to take advantage of this opportunity and said that it can take four to six months to find a job after graduation. She adds that 70% of employers hire students with some type of experience. They look for qualities like team management, leadership, technical competence, ethical behavior and motivation. Cooperative and internship programs provide those skill sets and promote future employment viability.