For many companies, hiring a summer intern means finding work to keep that person busy, whether it’s filing papers, entering data, or some other menial task.

But when juniors and seniors from Hartford Public High School joined Pratt & Whitney last year, it wasn't the usual summer internship, said Dave Smith, Pratt's director of aftermarket operations.

"The energy these kids brought to our department was phenomenal. They turned the place upside down," Smith said.

"You want to talk about refreshing, exciting, and fun? At the end of the summer, a lot of our people were sad to see them go.

"If you want to drive that energy—if you want to have a sense of what the future will look like and how you can be part of it—consider bringing on a couple of interns."

Smith made his pitch to several dozen business people who attended a March 13 breakfast meeting at CBIA headquarters in Hartford.

"We're really excited about this internship opportunity with Hartford Public High," said Shannon Marimón, executive director of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform, a CBIA-affiliated organization that seeks to close the achievement gap.

"This is exactly the kind of program we want to see."

Introduction to Work

CBIA's Education & Workforce Partnership helps Hartford High students land summer internships that provide an introduction to the workforce.

"They see what real work is like and they make better decisions around their education and what they have to do to succeed and get that job," Smith said.

GEI Consultants, a worldwide engineering firm with offices in Glastonbury, has had tremendous success with Hartford High interns, said Fred Johnson, senior vice president.

The energy these kids brought to our department was phenomenal. They turned the place upside down.
— Pratt & Whitney's Dave Smith
Johnson said he's found that while Hartford High students lack many of the opportunities suburban students have, they take every advantage when given one.

"They grab the chance, share the passion, they love to figure it out," he said.

Johnson said the company that hires an intern should assign a mentor to keep the intern engaged.

In the Field

Much of the work at GEI involves field visits.

But the visits are strictly regulated by OSHA, which requires substantial safety training before a worker can go into the field.

Knowing this, Johnson has GEI's interns take a week-long training course that enables them to go into the field and work alongside the company’s engineers.

"It takes them to a new level," Johnson said, "and it gives them a leg up when applying for a job."

Johnson said having an intern is a worthwhile investment.

"The interns become part of the family in our office and they get some real skills," he said.

"It is great to watch these kids succeed."

Funding Provided

While many companies provide a stipend for their interns, the Gawlicki Family Foundation of Hartford will provide funding for up to 75 interns from the Hartford Academy.

The foundation last year awarded the Education & Workforce Partnership a grant for summer internships that will again fund the AEGT interns.

"Hiring an intern is a win for everybody," Mary Gawlicki said. "It's a win for the intern, a win for the company, and its full-time staff."

Ted Gawlicki says bringing on interns can have a ripple effect on a business.

Hiring an intern is a win for everybody. It's a win for the intern, a win for the company, and its full-time staff.
— Gawlicki Foundation's Mary Gawlicki
"It improves the quality of life for full-time employees by allowing them to do more challenging work," he said.

The Gawlicki Family formed the foundation after the couple ran a successful business, Corporate Translations, which provides translation and other linguistic solutions to the pharmaceutical, biotech, and medical device industries.

Ted Gawlicki recalled one intern who came to work at Corporate Translations at age 16 and eventually became the company controller.

'A Whole New Child'

Ramon Apellaniz, lead behavior technician at Hartford High, said that when school starts in the fall, it's easy to tell students who've had a summer internship.

"When they come back, I'm like, 'What happened to you? You're a whole new child.'"

That happens, he said, because internships let students see the connection between their school courses and work, and they begin to take their studies seriously.

Giovanni Roberts, a 2015 Hartford High graduate who's a senior computer science major at Central Connecticut State University, said he's benefited from several internships at companies in the Hartford area.

"It helped me become a more rounded individual and a better student," he said.

"It's also helped me to be more proactive, to pursue what I want, and not let things come to me."

Companies represented at the informational breakfast included United Technologies, Kaman Corp., the Hartford Yard Goats, NBC Connecticut, Santander Bank, Key Bank, Blum Shapiro, Collins Aerospace, Whittlesey, RSL Fiber Systems, the Barnes Group, the City of Hartford, Metropolitan District Commission, the Latino Way, and Makerspace CT.

For information about hiring an intern, contact CBIA's Dayl Walker (860.244.1935).