Practical Application

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Class is in session at several local businesses.

Dream jobs don’t just fall from the sky.

More often than not, making them a reality takes a lot of planning, networking, and coordination. For students like Western Michigan University (WMU) senior Katherine Collier, putting in that effort at a young age is paying off.

“I’ve grown tremendously since I’ve started work here at Flowserve. Everything from my professional development to my supply chain knowledge has just blossomed,” Collier said.

Collier is one of many West Michigan students interning at area businesses while balancing schoolwork as they complete their college degrees. She studies integrated supply chain management and currently interns at Flowserve Corporation, a company that manufactures industrial and environmental flow control products used in numerous industries around the world. Combining her academic studies at WMU with her real-world, on-the-job training at Flowserve has made her a much more well-rounded person and valuable employee, Collier said.

“It’s so different to read a textbook than to be actually doing the job. Now that I’m sitting here doing the job every day, I truly feel that I understand what I am going to school for, and everything I’m studying at WMU suddenly makes sense.”

George Owens, a manufacturing planning and process engineer manager at Flowserve, who helped connect Collier with her internship, agrees. Owens believes that internships can spark a student’s love for a career and help them launch that career before they graduate. Internships can be a symbiotic relationship; not only do students get to learn from working professionals, but businesses like Flowserve can cultivate and train potential employees from their crop of interns.

Owens said, “It’s very important because the interns, a lot of times, have already been with us for a year, so they know our business, they know our processes, they know the people, and they’ve already determined they’re a good fit. So [the transition from intern to employee] has been very good because it is very seamless.”

In just a few months, Collier will start a new, full-time job at Flowserve, doing what she has been studying and working in: integrated supply chain management.

“It feels great,” Collier said. “I see so many students panicking when graduation time comes around, saying, ‘I don’t have a job. I don’t know what I’m going to do. You know, student loans are coming in. I don’t know where I want to go in my life.’ And it’s so great not having that feeling.”

Just down the hall from Collier’s cubical at Flowserve is fellow intern and WMU senior Caleb Kudary. Like Collier, Kudary also accepted a full-time position with Flowserve. He will start the new job after he graduates this spring.

Kudary said, “I didn’t hesitate, I was like, ‘Yeah, I’ll take it!’ It’s a great opportunity.”

Kudary is a finance major at WMU and interns as an order management specialist. He will continue in this field in his upcoming role at Flowserve. Beyond teaching him new and necessary professional skills, he said his internship also helped him with a personal transformation.

“Everything you learn in school, you see it here in the real world, and it all comes together,” Kudary said. “I used to be a pretty shy person, but after working here, I’m always talking to everyone. [It has] helped me come out of my shell.”

That maturity and growth is not going unnoticed by employers. Owens said motivation, communication, and professionalism are some of the major skills he is looking for when he helps hire new workers.

“We want to see people willing to take initiative and risks. Also, leadership—wanting to step up and lead a team or a project. Those are two big things.”

Southwest Michigan First works with West Michigan schools and educational institutions, such as WMU, to help connect students with internships. Part of that partnership between WMU and Southwest Michigan First is Internship 101, a workshop designed to teach employers what they need to know to set up or refine their own internship program. Kim Weishaar, chief financial officer at Southwest Michigan First, explained that it is a great way for businesses to learn how they can create internships at their company.

Weishaar said, “Giving the students opportunities to see what they can do with all that they’ve learned in school [during an] internship is a great way to help them figure out what they like and what they don’t like.”

Having seemingly figured it out, Collier agreed: “I know right where I’m going [after graduation]. My parents are excited too because they know I love it here and I’m happy.”

As seen live on WWMT (CBS) | CW7.

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