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Waupaca Foundry

Culture - Jan 31, 2022

Students Offered Internships by Waupaca Foundry During COVID-19

Ally Melby | Waupaca Foundry

Mike Hubert and Adam Clark as they work on a project at Waupaca Foundry's Plant 5.

Internships are an important rite of passage for undergraduates. Students can test out their intended career path while also gaining valuable work experience and industry connections prior to graduation. But they’re also competitive with fewer openings available than candidates. The COVID-19 pandemic made the internship process that much more difficult with businesses choosing to pause or completely shut down their internship programs.

For Adam Clark, an undergraduate at Owensboro Community Technical College, this was detrimental. As a student of the GO FAME (Greater Owensboro Chapter of KY FAME) program — a hybrid program with classroom instruction and onsite work experience at the manufacturing facility of a sponsoring company — Clark’s two degrees in industrial maintenance and electrical technology hindered on obtaining and completing an internship during the school year.

Instead of starting the 2020 fall semester with an internship, though, Clark was left waiting by the phone.

“Normally, most of the GO FAME students get their phone calls late August all the way to September,” Clark says. “We went to school for almost three months with no phone call. No one was wanting interns with COVID because they were trying to stay within their restrictions. That was three months of school with no work. And then we finally get a phone call from Waupaca saying, ‘Hey, give us all of them.’”

Waupaca Foundry had just joined the alliance during the fall of 2020 and was unable to interview students to see if they were a good match. However, after learning that many students were left unsponsored, Waupaca Foundry decided to take on all students to be a part of its mechanical maintenance program.

The mechanical maintenance program at Waupaca Foundry helps to mentor students in the industrial maintenance field to bring their technical abilities in maintenance and engineering up to a skill level that can help in job preparedness after graduation as well as help the industry to have better employees and fill the gap where there is a shortage of qualified technicians.

“I was just thankful that Waupaca Foundry was still taking on interns so we could continue on with their education. It was challenging sometimes with COVID. But the kids rose above it, and they did a great job,” says Mike Hubert, a mechanical technician of Waupaca Foundry’s gray and ductile iron plant in Tell City, Indiana, and mentor of the mechanical maintenance program.

Clark describes the partnership between GO FAME and Waupaca Foundry as a blueprint.

“It makes learning a lot easier because you get your understanding at school, and then you go, and you get it reinforced at work. It's honestly awesome,” Clark says. “The whole GO FAME internship, it really helps a student understand, especially me. It helps me see the stuff they’re teaching me in class. If I'm struggling with something at school, I'll come to work the next day, and somehow we're working on that.”

“We can only teach so much in our classrooms, and only so much in our libraries. This gives them an opportunity to experience manufacturing in the real-world environment too, as well, specifically on the job,” says Shawn Payne, department head of advanced manufacturing and skilled trades at Owensboro Community Technical College.

“We’ve seen a lot of growth, especially with Waupaca,” Payne says. “Some of these students have really become fully invested with Waupaca; Some of the students have already taken full-time jobs with Waupaca.”

Since joining the GO FAME program as a sponsoring company, Waupaca Foundry has added a second cohort to its mechanical maintenance program to accommodate growing demand.

“We have some really good students here, and hopefully future employees too,” says Karen Snyder, Waupaca Foundry Tell City recruiting & hiring manager. “Gaining that experience already, and that work knowledge will help tremendously. They'll to be able to jump in and do anything because they've already been exposed to it all.”

Mike Hubert and Adam Clark work on a project together at Plant 5. 

As for Clark after graduation, he believes he is “every bit of it, ready to go”.

There's always something to do, something to learn, all the guys here are awesome. They're willing to teach you if you're confused. Honestly, you couldn’t ask for a better environment,” Clark says. “Closer to graduation, it will now be extremely easy to find full time out there.”

Work-sponsorship programs at Waupaca Foundry provide valuable work experience and an insight into the variety of careers in the metalcasting industry. Students interested are encouraged to reach out for more information.
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