Summer opportunities sought at Hartford-area companies

Efrain Viera stands next to a model of the space suit designed by Hamilton Sundstrand (now UTC Aerospace Systems).

Greater-Hartford-area businesses involved in science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM) are invited to participate in a summer internship program coordinated by CBIA's Education Foundation. Now in its fourth year, the program matches students at the Academy of Engineering and Green Technology (AoEGT) with local STEM employers.* (AoEGT is one of five National Academy Foundation schools in Hartford, all of which require internships as part of their programming.)

To be eligible, students must be juniors or seniors with good attendance, a positive attitude, strong academics, and training in workplace expectations.

AoEGT Principal Mike Maziarz says internships have had a transformative effect not only on individual students but also on the climate and culture of his school.

Eleventh-grader Kiana Gordon, who worked at A I Engineers, explains. "Internships are important to students in an urban environment because they help us know that there is a world outside of this busy and sometimes negative atmosphere. This past summer helped me flourish as both a scholar and a young woman."

Gordon plans to major in civil engineering at the University of Connecticut. Her goal, she says, is to design bridges.

Game Changer

Stephanie Fluker, a senior at AoEGT, says company mentors helped her narrow her career interests by allowing her to job-shadow employees.

"I'm a very shy person," she told a group of businesspeople at a recent informational meeting. During her internships, she said, "I saw how everyone did their own job but also collaborated in teams for support and guidance. I remember my first assignment was to introduce myself to everyone on the second floor. That seemed like the hardest task in the world, but I'm glad I did it because if it weren't for that experience, I wouldn't be who I am today."

Fellow senior Efrain Viera, who collected and evaluated ergonomic data at UTC Aerospace Systems last summer, agrees. "Internships can change your character and make you realize that life is all about choices."

Gregory Blessing, EH&S (environment, health & safety) manager at UTC Aerospace Systems, was Viera's supervisor. "Efrain enthusiastically worked side by side with senior EH&S professionals," he says. "He has a very strong work ethic and a positive outlook."

New Energy

"I didn't know what to expect the first day," Viera admits. "I was very nervous. But when I got to know my coworkers, I felt like a full-time employee instead of a student. Honestly, it was a very good feeling. I strongly believe internships are very important to students."

They can also be a huge advantage for businesses, says Lisa Szewczul, vice president of EH&S at UTC Aerospace Systems. Interns hired by her company and other STEM employers have worked on energy benchmarking, process data entry, value stream mapping, blueprint archiving, developing handbooks and presentations, and compiling data for environmental compliance reports.

Besides getting extra help with their projects, says CBIA's Dayl Walker, employers benefit from the energy, drive, and creativity interns bring to the workplace. Employers that have participated in or committed to CBIA's internship program include:

  • A I Engineers
  • AECom
  • Aetna
  • AT&T
  • Bank of America
  • Barnes Group
  • CBIA
  • City of Hartford
  • Community Renewal Team
  • Computer Services Corporation
  • Connecticut Science Center
  • Econ Solar
  • Edwards Wildman
  • Freeman Companies
  • Fuss & O'Neill
  • GEI Consultants
  • Hartford Public Library
  • ING
  • Legrand
  • MDC
  • Milone and MacBroom
  • Northeast Utilities
  • United Technologies Corp.
  • UTC Power
  • UTC Aerospace Systems
  • Vanasse Hangen Brustlin

To add your name to the list, contact CBIA Education Foundation program manager Dayl Walker at 860.244.1935 or dayl.walker@cbia.com.

Lesia Winiarskyj is a writer and editor at CBIA. She can be reached at lesia.winiarskyj@cbia.com.

* At least 2.4 million openings in U.S. STEM jobs are projected by 2018; the National Governors Association puts the number at 8 million. Interest and achievement in STEM, however, is lacking: particularly among females and minorities. In light of recent research on how students learn, many groups have cited a need to revamp the ways STEM is taught. The Center on Time and Learning, for example, found that students who approach science through hands-on projects and inquiry-based instruction scored 16 points higher on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) science assessment than their peers. Internships provide natural opportunities for students to do project-based STEM work.