Internships Give Connecticut Students, Businesses a Competitive Edge


Nine companies, 18 students benefit from working together

By Lesia Winiarskyj

Eighteen juniors and seniors from Hartford’s Academy of Engineering and Green Technology (AoEGT) met recently to reflect on how they spent their summer: some answering phones, others collecting lab data, testing fuel cells, or helping with field inspections of buildings, bridges, and roads. The students were part of a paid, professional internship program coordinated by CBIA. They got together this fall to share their experiences with our staff, their teachers, and each other.

“It was an amazing opportunity,” said eleventh-grader Juliana Mendoza, who interned for six weeks at an aerospace manufacturing company. Prior to being placed, she and her fellow interns: chosen based on academic achievement and teachers’ recommendations: completed pre-employment workshops in team-building, professionalism, and workplace etiquette.

Nine Connecticut companies in sectors as diverse as manufacturing, engineering, telecommunications, and law took part in the program, giving interns a chance to do hands-on, minds-on work and be a part of the company culture. Participating businesses were AI Engineers, AT&T, CBIA, Hamilton Sundstrand, UTC Power, ING/Chip In for a Cure Golf Classic, Edwards Angell Palmer & Dodge LLP, Milone & MacBroom, and Vanasse Hangen Brustlin Inc.

Shared Investment, Shared Benefits

Internships, says Judith Resnick, offer opportunities for students to learn about various aspects of a business, think critically, solve problems, apply the technical and academic skills learned in the classroom, and make more-informed career decisions. Resnick is executive director of CBIA’s Education Foundation, which facilitates the internship program, identifying interested employers, coordinating pre-placement training sessions for students, and serving as a liaison between employers and schools.

“When students graduate and try to enter the job market,” she explains, “they’re competing not only with other students but also with workers who have something they don’t have: experience. Internships help bridge this gap, giving young people practical experience and job-readiness skills that are rarely part of the curriculum but are crucial to success.”

The Academy of Engineering and Green Technology, a small learning community at Hartford Public High School, is a National Academy Foundation (NAF) school. NAF schools are required to provide structured, compensated, work-based learning experiences that align with academic goals. According to NAF, internships help employers develop their future workforce and create long-term, sustainable partnerships that link the education of youth with the bottom line for businesses.

Rise and Shine

Juliana Mendoza, 17, interned at Hamilton Sundstrand, a division of United Technologies Corporation. (UTC, a CBIA member company, is the AoEGT’s major corporate sponsor.)

“Maybe the hardest thing about the internship,” Juliana recalls, “was getting up at five o’clock every day in the summer. But it was a good experience, because it got me prepared for the future.”

She and her fellow interns often had to rise before dawn to catch buses to their worksites. They were always on time and consistently early for work, noted their employers.

“They also had very strong computer skills,” adds Greg Blessing, environmental, health, and safety manager for space systems at Hamilton Sundstrand. “That enabled us to assign them diverse types of work.”

Dr. Al Pucino, laboratories engineering manager at UTC Power, agrees, saying UTC’s interns handled a wide assortment of data entry, spreadsheet work, and computer-aided drafting and design.

“I learned so many things at my internship,” says Juliana, “including new ways to work in Excel, creating pivot tables, charts of ‘turnbacks,’ or problems, and tracking and updating information.” She also mastered Microsoft Visio, an advanced diagramming program that allows users to connect diagrams to data sources and display the information graphically. Though her paid internship was originally limited to three weeks, Juliana was hired to stay on for an additional three weeks.

Harry Cion, manager at the law offices of Edwards Angell Palmer & Dodge, said his firm was equally impressed with their intern.

“Mindy was a jewel,” he said. “She just came in and went right to work. When our commercial real estate department was in a bind, she pitched in and helped them. In many ways, we probably learned as much from her as she did from us.”

To show their appreciation for her hard work and initiative, the firm sent Mindy home with a laptop and a prepaid cell phone.

“These are tools and technologies she will need in college,” said Cion, “and we were happy to provide them.”

Looking Back: and Looking Ahead

In September, employers met and debriefed on the benefits of the program.

Pamela Harris, human resources manager for Milone & MacBroom, said a mix of work assignments and environments proved successful in terms of educating students and keeping them engaged.

“Our interns, Brandon and Zak, worked with junior and senior engineers and rotated into different areas,” she explained, “including transportation, water resources, and our civil group. They did a nice mix of project work and office work.” Many other businesses, including AI Engineers, also allowed students time both in the office and on the shop floor, in the lab, or in the field.

Abul Islam is president of AI Engineers, which assigned three interns to work with project managers both out in the field and back in the office, organizing inspection notes and producing reports.

“It was a good opportunity for them to see how a small business operates and get a taste of what it’s like to work there,” Islam said.

At AT&T, retired executives were brought in to train interns in the “architecture of the organization, soup to nuts,” said former manager Charles Foley. “We quizzed them and had them work together over the internship period, learning about process flows and safety and seeing their applications in the field.” The students finished with presentations on what they had learned.

All 18 Interns also met in the fall to reflect on their internship experiences and share what they had accomplished. Aside from helping them develop job-specific skills and knowledge, students said their summer internships taught them to speak up, articulate their ideas, and hone their interpersonal skills.

“I learned about professionalism, interacting with others, and being independent,” said Juliana, who hopes to study at MIT and return to Hamilton Sundstrand as a full-time engineer.

A Fresh Perspective

Felix Giordano, a pre-engineering teacher at AoEGT, noticed a “remarkable change” in many of his students. “They were so confident, relaxed, and proud while speaking to me about their internships,” he said. “The collective dedication and sincerity of your actions,” he told employers, “have given them a renewed awareness of self and what they are capable of achieving. No amount of money could have ever given them what each of you have provided.”

CBIA’s Dayl Walker, who helped coordinate placements, says, “Our interns overwhelmingly felt well-received and treated with respect by their employers. They saw a broader world and were included in it. They were given real responsibilities. They came back to school speaking confidently and walking taller.”

Tonya Martin: whose son, Zakwinton, interned at a civil engineering consulting firm: put it best when she told Walker, “I would like to thank you for seeing what I see, something very special and unique about my son, and for giving him the opportunity to participate in this year’s summer internship. Milone and MacBroom gave him a real hands-on feel of what their company is all about. Now when I see a building of any size, just like Zak, I see more than just the finished project.”

Interested in internships? CBIA will be hosting a breakfast program from 8 to 9 a.m. on Nov. 17 for companies interested in learning more about internships. Hear from local businesspeople who hired interns and learn more about the program. Contact Dayl Walker at 860.244.1935 or

For updates on CBIA’s education and workforce development programs, visit

Lesia Winiarskyj is a writer-editor at CBIA. She can be reached at

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