What: 16-month internship as an Engineering Intern
Where: KIK Custom Products Rexdale Plant
When: May 3, 2010 to September 2, 2011
How: Application was done through Ryerson’s Industrial Internship Program (IIP). I submitted my cover letter and resumé directly to the Engineering manager and our MIE Department followed up with my transcript, as per IIP guidelines. As with any impending job interview I have, I always do my research regarding the company, i.e. how long have they been in business, how large is their network, who are their competitors, what are the services and products that they offer, what is their corporate culture, etc. I was able to use the information I learned to demonstrate my knowledge of their company and established a good ambience early in the interview. A big bulk of the interview was related to behavioural and situational questions and only a few to some very basic technical questions such as pneumatics and PLC circuits and Microsoft Excel, so it will be useful to reacquaint yourself with these topics.
I recall that the Engineering manager was reading through my transcript and was impressed with my grades. Frankly, I was offered the job because I was able to maintain my academic standing while working part-time, something that he shared with me afterwards. Although I believe you don’t need stellar grades to obtain internship positions, it will definitely get you noticed or get you an interview at the very least. I find that what he was looking for was a mature student who is able to manage his/her self and has the initiative to finish all tasks and projects in a timely manner.
Ultimately, I can sum up what I believe would be most useful to have to get a co-op position: great communication and leadership skills, analytical and independent learning, eagerness to learn, and good time management skills. If you can elaborate and give evidence that you possess these characteristics, then you are sure to receive that call for a job offer.
Why: Doing an internship and not finishing my final year directly was an easy decision for me. For one, I will automatically have an advantage over my peers who would finish university without any work experience related to the field. By doing an internship, I am adding to my personal brand that I will use to market myself as I propel myself from the academia into the working world. Plus it’s a good opportunity to apply what I learned and discern the differences between university and work environments.
Aside from the added bonus of earning money, it offers an outlook into a professional career in numerous different industries. The beauty of IIP is that it offers such a wide range of job opportunities to choose from. I had been lucky to be offered a few co-op choices in consumer product and food manufacturing, retail and electronics companies and was able to make the best choice for myself. With the number of co-op opportunities out there, you are never inhibited and restricted to a few conventional industries. With the experience and industry exposure that you gain, your career decisions are better directed when the time comes that you finally have that iron ring on your finger and about to embark into the working world.
From the title of “Engineering Intern” itself and from the job description, it was evident that I will have a broad range of responsibilities and need not be worried about the possible humdrums of co-op work. KIK Custom Products in Rexdale is a custom manufacturing company that has a large plant area wherein they do everything in-house from purchasing, receiving, compounding (making the bulk/formula), production, warehousing and shipping.
I was assigned the sole responsibility of maintaining reliability key process indicators and creating daily plant performance reports for management’s perusal. I was also responsible for the maintenance of performance standards and kept everything accurate and up-to-date. I worked with multi-disciplined teams and addressed objectives associated with the manufacturing and assembly process, productivity, volume outputs, scrap and rework, quality, and safety. I also handled the Key Process Indicator Boards, which are electronic data-logging systems for production and operation processes. I was the sole point of contact with direct system users and the system provider and ensured that all units are accurate and completely operational. I ensured proper implementation and provided technical support and training to production workers.
Aside from daily tasks for the reliability and KPI projects, I also participated in wastewater management, utility and production cost-saving projects. I conducted pilot tests using a centrifuge and a bench-scale evaporator. Some days, I will be in the compounding area, some days in the wastewater system area, in the production lines, or in the laboratory. At times, I can spend the whole day in the office working on reports and spreadsheets and configuring programs. Also, I was assigned a lighting savings project for two of our facilities upon my initiative. And although I am still a student, I was given the responsibility of looking after these projects.
There was never any room for boredom. There was always something to do or partake with, a welcome experience for a student such as myself who wants to gain significant experience in the industry. I liked that my manager was always receptive to ideas and in fact, encouraged them. I was given the opportunity to manage myself and create my own timeline and milestones and produce deliverables. I liked that with the expectation of getting things done, came the trust, and enough independence to do so. As a result, I developed confidence and an ease of dealing with different kinds of people from plant workers, to management and third-party consultants and contractors.
I find that building proper relationships and strong connections with people is the best thing I can take away from the experience. I had the opportunity to gain insight into what the real world is like outside of the classroom. My technical skills were also solidified with the experience of working with more advanced Excel functions, AutoCAD and others such as the XL Program from Vorne Industries. Plus, I got to meet so many new people that I know I will continue to be in touch with, and who will offer guidance and support. I met peers and co-workers who always provide stimulating intellectual exchange.
As a closing remark, if you are anxious about getting co-op opportunities, I say there is no need. Once you get through your first interview, the rest will progress smoother, provided that you undertake requisite preparations. Be confident and come prepared with an eagerness to learn and you will find that there are so many who will offer their support to make your experience an enjoyable and fulfilling one.