GRCC students put studies into practice with internships, co-op jobs



Leah Nixon

Director of Communications


Feb. 21, 2014 GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Gov. Rick Snyder has declared that February is Cooperative Education and Internship Month, but for more than 400 Grand Rapids Community College students, internships and co-op jobs are a cause for celebration throughout the academic year.

“Internships and co-ops are a win-win-win situation,” said Fiona Hert, dean of GRCC’s School of Workforce Development. “More than 400 of our students were involved in them last year. They gain valuable ‘real-world’ experience; employers may receive a pipeline of prospective employees, and the community keeps a trained workforce in the area!”

Scott Lampe, a professor of plastics manufacturing technology, helped Ethan Bruyn get a co-op position at Agape Plastics when he was a GRCC student two years ago. The company found him a great fit: After the co-op period ended, Bruyn continued to work at Agape part-time during the school year and full-time during summer and school breaks.

“When we get a student into a company, they usually stay at that company for two or three more years,” Lampe said. “They continue with school and work during breaks and summer. The company gets a great look at a student to see if there is a fit when they graduate. If they hire the student after graduation, the training process is totally done for the company, and that new employee makes major contributions right away.”

Dave Palmer, a process engineer at Agape, says the company has a great working relationship with GRCC. Palmer said his experiences as a GRCC student give him insight into what both parties are looking for in the internship or co-op process.

“Internships and co-op jobs are a great way for a company and the student to go through an informal orientation process,” he said. “Sometimes we just have short-term positions available, but in some cases, the internships work as an orientation period of one or multiple years that can result in a full-time position within our company. This is the path that has worked for me as well as many others.”

Lampe added, “We encourage a lot of hands-on learning, which transfers right to the companies. Our students know how the processes work, and when they get to a company, there is little training that needs to occur because of what they have learned at GRCC. They can enter a company and make a positive contribution right away.”

Bruyn said that was true for him.

“My internship at Agape Plastics was a great experience,” said Bruyn, who will graduate from Ferris State University this spring with a plastics engineering degree. "I was able to learn a lot of hands-on stuff that cannot all be learned at school.

“This wasn’t a position where I was just doing paperwork or sitting and doing little — I had stuff that was crucial to production and needed to be done in order to move on.”

To learn more about internships in GRCC’s School of Workforce Development, click here. For more information about internships in GRCC’s criminal justice program, click here and here. If you are an employer and are interested in setting up an internship, click here.

Grand Rapids Community College, established in 1914, offers opportunities for more than 30,000 students annually in degree courses, certification and training programs, workshops and personal enrichment classes. GRCC holds classes on the downtown Grand Rapids campus as well as several locations throughout Kent and Ottawa counties.