Hiring Packaging Students: Internships

The School of Packaging internship program at Michigan State University is one of the largest of its kind. It has steadily grown since it inception and now involves hundreds of corporations from across the United States and more than 80% of our approximately 125 graduates per year.

This program is an excellent way of adding immediately to staff and aids in identifying potential full-time employees for future positions. Interns are capable of offering a great deal of assistance to regular staff engineers while taking on many projects independently.

Student Eligibility:

  • Junior or senior status.
  • Completion of PKG 315, 322, 323 before the internship begins.
  • Students earn three credits for the internship experience. Grading is on a pass/no pass basis.
  • Average rate of pay for interns is just under $20.00/hour. The range is $25/hr to $15/hr.
  • Employers typically cover travel expenses for the student to begin work and return to school afterward.
  • Finding and paying for housing is often the intern’s responsibility, but we ask that employers offer assistance in locating suitable accommodations. Some employers offer subsidized/pre-arranged housing as part of the student’s compensation.

Employment periods vary in length but most positions are offered in the following time blocks:

  • 8 months: January – August
  • 7 months: June – December
  • 6 months: January – June
  • 4 months: May – August

 

Employment Offers:

Offers are made directly to the students with a follow-up call to the program coordinator. Employers should respond in writing to each student interviewed and try to make offers as quickly as possible after interviews are completed. Because students have leases and enrollment issues to settle, timely offers are important.

During the Employment Period:

The student will complete a final evaluation of the position and submit a written project detailing their internship experiences. A copy of the student’s evaluation of the internship is to be signed by both the employer and the student before mailing.

Midterm and final work performance evaluations will be sent to the student’s supervisor for completion. These will be returned to the program coordinator to be used, in part, to assign the student a pass/no pass grade for the internship. Evaluations must be reviewed with the student and signed by both the supervisor and the student before being mailed.

Internship Development:

 

Realize that interns return to school and talk about their internship experiences with other students. Work to assure that our on-campus “corporate image” as an employer is a good one. To this end, planning and organization is important:

  • Have a detailed job plan developed so that you and the student have common and clear goals and objectives to be met over the work period
  • Detail the intern’s overall day-to-day responsibilities and larger projects.
  • Prepare your staff for the intern’s arrival. Be sure staff members understand the intern’s role and how s/he will fit into the department.
  • Provide support to the student in relocating and finding suitable housing.
  • Show that you expected and planned for the intern’s arrival. Have someone meet him/her immediately upon arrival at you facility. Have the student’s work station planned and adequately equipped and supplied.
  • Develop an orientation program that will include a tour of facilities and proper introductions to co-workers and the job.
  • Have a clear chain of command – define to whom the student will report and how assignments and delegation of responsibilities will be handled.
  • Be accessible and available. Assign an interim supervisor in your absence.
  • Realize that the student is there to learn and develop. Take responsibility to assure that the position offers diversity and challenge. Be sure that the intern is not excluded form meetings, tours or introductions to people, places or procedures that relate to projects or assignments in which s/he is involved.
  • Treat the intern like a professional.
  • Have the intern develop a handbook that will be passed to subsequent interns. This handbook could include such things as instructions for handling routine responsibilities, a list of who’s who, plant/ office layout, organizational chart, map, list of places to go and things to do, housing options and recommendations, standard department protocol and procedures, corporate policies and services, etc.
  • Hold regular sessions with the intern to discuss job responsibilities, performance and progress, and areas for development and improvement.
  • Keep the intern busy with challenging projects and responsibilities.
  • Require the intern to write reports, handle business communications and give formal presentations.
  • Set a positive tone for the internship – make it clear that the student is welcome, needed and important to the department.
  • Ask the program coordinator for advice and insight related to your use of the intern and to deal with any problems or concerns you have before, during or after completion of a student’s internship.
  • Enjoy and take advantage of your interns’ youthful energy, creativeness and enthusiasm. Realize that they want to prove to themselves and to you that they can do the job the sooner you integrate them as useful and contributing members of the department, the sooner their confidence and level of productivity will rise.

Intern Responsibilities

Here are some points to consider when determining intern responsibilities. Try to utilize interns in much the same way that you would engage regular packaging staff members. Because there is a learning curve involved and positions are temporary, some restrictions on assignments are inevitable. If anything, over-estimate the students’ capabilities rather than underestimate them. They can probably handle more than you (or they) think. Responsibilities could include:

  • Developing and designing new packages or improved packages to meet standards of quality, function and cost.
  • Working with specification and descriptive materials for new packages and ways to improve existing packages. May include drawing, writing, computerization and verification.
  • Facilitating trials of new packages and/or equipment. Adapting current lines/equipment to processing applications, and modifying and existing setup to implement changes.
  • Procuring services or materials required for new packages or redesigning existing ones.
  • Troubleshooting and problem analysis related to production, products and materials.
  • Traveling to user or supplier facilities, corporate manufacturing sites, warehouses, etc., in support of projects.
  • Laboratory testing of packages and packaging materials.  May include development of test methods, analysis of data and generation of technical reports.
  • Tracking test shipments, handling pilot plant operations or line start-ups.
  • Using computers and software, including those programs and applications specific to the packaging industry.
  • Attending staff and project planning meetings. Attending corporate training programs.
  • Evaluating current methods in support of standardization, environmental and cost-saving goals.
  • Bringing packaging into compliance with new quality methods and standards, and government, industry or corporate regulations and guidelines.
  • Working with other departments (marketing, manufacturing, material handling, engineering) and outside customers and suppliers in support of projects and departmental packaging goals/objectives.