Diversity & Inclusion Technology Internship Reinforces Companies, Opens Paths for Next Generation

Fall, spring internship opportunities opening for companies and students in August 

Andrea Acevedo, third-year engineering student at Wright State University

Early this spring, Andrea Acevedo felt her prospects of finding an internship looked grim. The third-year engineering student at Wright State University is studying industrial systems, and needed a chance to get on-the-job experience in her field. But as well-qualified as she was, Acevedo watched as COVID-19 began to touch industries across the state and assumed the worst.

“I wasn’t sure if many companies would be taking on interns, and I thought even if they hired an intern, they’d decide, ‘Sorry, we can’t have you anymore,’ Acevedo said. “Even if I started somewhere, I wasn’t sure how permanent it would be. But then Sheryl Kent from Student Success Services reached out and told me about the Ohio Third Frontier’s Diversity & Inclusion Technology Internship program.”

The Ohio Third Frontier program pairs interns with companies who need them, offering paid internships to give college students a great experience in business and entrepreneurship while companies get young, diverse talent to help them compete and grow. The program reimburses two-thirds of the intern’s wages up to $10,000 and any technology company or organization with a technology need is eligible. The fall/spring round of applications for the internship opens for companies Aug. 11 through Sept. 8. Students can apply Aug. 25 through Sept. 22.

Acevedo found her home at Metallurgical Solutions Inc., a commercial testing lab performing metal testing and industrial forensics. The topic was a totally new one to Acevedo, but it turned out to be a perfect fit.

“I was worried that it wouldn’t be helpful to me in the future, and it’s been the exact opposite,” she said. “It was a lot of chemistry, which I didn’t really like in college. But they work with so many different companies in every background – aerospace, manufacturing, paper, all kinds of things. So to be able to see how all these companies operate and what’s helpful to them has been beneficial to my career. I’ve been working 40 hours a week and I’m on week nine.”

Like many businesses, Metallurgical Solutions has been impacted by COVID-19. Owner and Director Brian Joyce said his company isn’t making its typical revenue, which made the Ohio Third Frontier’s help in paying for a useful intern all the more important. And on top of that help, Acevedo herself — the first intern to come through the Diversity & Inclusion Technology program at the company — has proven to be a major asset, a common bit of feedback from businesses involved in the program.

“She’s very conscientious and is not afraid to dive into any of the projects,” said Joyce. “I’ve asked her to put together a portfolio of the skills and experiences she’s obtained while at the laboratory so she won’t have to try to remember what she did at MSI 3 years from now. She’ll definitely have something to include on her resume when she gets ready to look for a job. If I could, I would hire her now and get her to switch her major to materials engineering.”

Interns from the program have found homes at smaller startups as well. Christian Stephens, a senior at The Ohio State University, is headed into the medical field but has always been interested in the tech and entrepreneurial aspects of healthcare. He applied for the internship program and was matched with CaringWire, a digital platform that engages and empowers older adults and their family caregivers. There, Stephens has been able to research older adult health, develop a chat bot that interacts as a virtual caregiver and see the startup process up close next to founder Michael Sentz.

“It’s been great getting to work with someone who’s actually a founder himself and is actually in the thick of it,” said Stephens. “I’ve been able to see what goes into actually getting an organization going. I’ve been curious about investigating it to see if it’s right for me or may be an option down the road. I really value the idea of starting something myself and building something from the ground up, so it’s been great talking to Michael about the things he’s run into and the problems he’s had. I’m going into the medical field, but I’ve never wanted to be a traditional clinician; I want to be an innovator.”

Sentz has seen that ability in Stephens. In the four months Stephens has worked with CaringWire, Sentz said he’s lumped more and more responsibility onto his plate, which is just fine for Stephens. That’s why Sentz said he’s sold on the internship program — it’s not just about padding a résumé or getting paid, it’s about grooming the next generation of innovators.

“The match process is definitely better than other ways of finding interns,” Sentz said. “What I’ve found is young, hungry people who are willing to take on a challenge that, at a small startup, is pretty obscure and doesn’t have a traditional role or definition. They come in and say, ‘I’m here to help; I’m here to learn.’ Interns like Christian end up sticking it out and having a great experience. It’s like distilling the experience of a first year at the company into a period of three or four months.”

The internship program is still open to applications from interns or companies. Internships are open to Ohio residents attending college anywhere in the United States or non-Ohio residents attending school in Ohio. For more information, click here.

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