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Student internships build talent pipeline and boost U.P. businesses

Calumet Electronics has built an intern program with Michigan Technological University and now leads the electronics industry with strong engineering talent

UPPER PENINSULA (September 12, 2019) – Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is known for its abundant natural resources, from copper to premium hardwoods. But there’s another equally valuable, less obvious resource in the region that smart businesses capitalize on: college students. Because of this remote region’s legendary snowfall, kids learn to be tough, resilient and dependable—qualities that businesses value. Growing up in the Upper Peninsula is a unique experience, defined by safe, friendly neighborhoods and natural beauty. Many young adults are eager to stay after graduation and raise their own families here because they love the lifestyle. When U.P. companies partner with local universities to develop and nurture a pipeline of talent, it is a win for all involved—the universities, the students, and the companies who hire them.

One company that has had great success with developing talent is Calumet Electronics. Their investment starts at the high school level through the support of STEM programs where young minds can build their science, technology, engineering, and mathematics skills – all of which will be valuable in the future workplace.  The company is a longtime sponsor of the Calumet CopperBots, a high school robotics team that competes against 4,000 international student teams each year. Calumet Electronics is also an early supporter of the Copper Country Intermediate School District’s Career and Technical Education program, which boosts local economies by supplying trained workers.

Calumet Electronics’ most impactful partnerships take place at the college level with paid internships. Over the past six years, the company has developed a very fruitful internship program with Michigan Technological University. Michigan Tech students are in great demand with local, state and national businesses, with a 93 percent placement rate for undergraduates and a 95 percent placement rate for graduate students within six months of graduation. Each year, Calumet Electronics hires up to eight student interns who are enrolled in engineering, programming, or engineering technology disciplines. The students take part in meaningful, real world, hands-on projects that have direct correlations to the company’s ROI. They generally start in the summer; some are asked to stay on for part-time positions that last through the school year. The company has recently begun hiring students for co-op positions—extended, six-month internships that allow them to gain and use skills in a real world environment over a longer timeframe.

Dr. Meredith LaBeau, Calumet Electronics’ director of process engineering, oversees much of the internship program. She notes, “We hire Michigan Tech students because they’re brilliant, have an outstanding work ethic, and they mesh well with the company. These interns aren’t paper pushers. Our internships are true partnerships, where both Calumet and the intern benefit. The student needs to get as much out of it as we do. Ideally, what we’re trying to do is keep these talented people in the U.P. so they can continue to enrich the area.”

Calumet Electronics has benefitted greatly from the work of its interns. One young woman is running tests to understand the interactions between copper ions and electricity, a task with direct application to the company’s daily business. Another intern, currently pursuing an accelerated masters, is a chemical informatics major—he works with big data with an emphasis on chemistry. Although he was not an obvious match for Calumet Electronics, the company was impressed by his intelligence and skills, so they found a place for him. He immediately started running queries on the company’s data sets to understand scrap. His expertise immediately helped Calumet save money. He stayed on to work with a process engineer who is industrializing a cutting edge technology that’s new to the U.S. The interns benefit too. Apart from increasing their subject matter knowledge, they learn how to interact in a business climate and gain lots of experience with technical writing and communication through weekly presentations and multiple written reports.

Dr. LaBeau states, “We’re trying to develop great engineers and scientists who will be productive members of society in whatever business they enter. Our goal is to get the right people on the bus. If a company can manage to find the right people for the right seats, those people can help to drive you forward and take your business to the next level.”

About Calumet Electronics

Calumet Electronics is committed to high-velocity, high-performance printed circuit board (PCB) engineering and fabrication solutions in North America with a strong focus on aerospace, medical, defense and industrial sectors.

About InvestUP

InvestUP is a private sector-led economic development organization keenly focused on driving economic growth across Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Founded by the region’s leading private sector businesses and the region’s universities, its mission is to deliver business and job growth across the peninsula.

As a part of our commitment to the Upper Peninsula, we collaborate with partners to share some of the most compelling stories about business and job growth across the region. Our goal through these stories is to get at the heart of what makes the U.P. unique — and to ensure these stories travel beyond our peninsula and broadly illustrate why the UP is the place to live and work.

If you have an idea for an article, please contact a staff or board member at InvestUP.

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