Internships: How Does the Employer Benefit? Part II

Charles D. Schultz

President at Beyta Gear Service
Charles D. Schultz is President of Beyta Gear Service and one of Gear Technology's technical editors.

Latest posts by Charles D. Schultz (see all)

In my previous post I talked about the official ways an internship program benefited our company. Today I’d like to talk about a couple of unanticipated aspects of the program. Our shop, like most of yours, had many experienced employees, but few young people. The influx of inquisitive and personable students did annoy a few of the gruffer old hands, but far more of them were flattered by the kids asking them questions and soliciting their opinions on how things could be done better. You really can’t say you understand something until you try to explain it to someone completely unfamiliar with the topic. The very necessary interaction between our operators and interns gave us new insight into the ways we had always done things. In some cases it confirmed our process, in others it challenged our assumptions and allowed us to try new methods with less feather ruffling than if the changes came down from management.

The second thing I noticed was leadership is different from supervision. In some cases our foremen were not the “leaders” in their departments. Getting changes to “stick” was far more successful when the actual floor leader was convinced someone had finally listened to him. Your company, too, has some great leaders out on your shop floor; those leaders might have ideas you need to hear. Between the interns’ questions and our following up with the operators on the kids’ efforts, we learned many things we would not have without the program.

One of the things we made every intern do at the completion of a project was to prepare a presentation for anyone interested in attending. For most of the students this was by far the most stressful part of their tenure. It really informed management and their co-workers on what they had accomplished. And several reported afterwards that the experience helped them during job interviews upon graduation. You know the old joke about an extroverted engineer looking at your shoes when he talks to you? Mandatory public presentations gets their eyes raised a bit and increase their self- confidence for future assignments. That is a good thing for our industry.

Internships: How Does the Employer Benefit?

Charles D. Schultz

President at Beyta Gear Service
Charles D. Schultz is President of Beyta Gear Service and one of Gear Technology's technical editors.

Latest posts by Charles D. Schultz (see all)

The first question my boss asked me when I suggested we start an intern program was “What’s in it for us?” Fortunately I had done my homework and read the “instruction book” that a college placement office had e-mailed me: Starting and Maintaining a Quality Internship Program, compiled and edited by Michael True, director, Internship Center, Messiah College, Grantham, PA 17027; revised edition by MACIC (Milwaukee Area Internship Consortium 5/03), sponsored by www.tccp.org, Pittsburgh Technology Council and Messiah College.

It helped that our company was at that time growing rapidly and that he was looking for less expensive ways to recruit qualified employees. Among the benefits an employer enjoys from a well organized internship program are:
• Year-round source of highly motivated pre-professionals
• Students bring new perspectives to old problems
• Visibility of your organization is increased on campus and within your community
• Quality candidates for temporary or seasonal positions and projects
• Freedom for professional staff to pursue more creative projects
• Flexible, cost-effective workforce not requiring a long-term employer commitment
• Proven, cost-effective way to recruit and evaluate potential employees

Like many companies, we had a lot of projects that we never quite had the time to complete. Our list included finding a way to fit more cars in our parking lot, reorganizing our engineering files, inventorying gear cutting tools, converting CAD drawings to a different format, and improving material flow through the plant. All worthwhile projects that never got near the top of our priority lists. I’m sure we could have come up with even more projects had we asked the accounting, purchasing, or sales departments, but my list was sufficient to get an approval to hire a couple of engineering students for the summer months. Note I said “hire,” as we felt it was unfair to ask unpaid volunteers to perform “real work.” With input from the University’s internship advisor, we set an hourly rate based upon year in school and had plenty of well-qualified candidates to choose from. By the end of the summer our project backlog was eliminated, but my co-workers were already debating “what we should have the kids do next summer.”

Is It Summer Yet?

Charles D. Schultz

President at Beyta Gear Service
Charles D. Schultz is President of Beyta Gear Service and one of Gear Technology's technical editors.

Latest posts by Charles D. Schultz (see all)

With the extreme weather much of the country has been having it isn’t too surprising that many people are daydreaming about summer vacations and relaxing days far from the snow shovel. But another group of people is already thinking of summer for far less relaxing reasons; they are college students in need of summer employment. Ideally that employment would be in their field of study with a company who might be in need of their services after graduation.

Until my own children started looking for “internships” I didn’t give much thought to this situation. Sure, I had seen “summer help” in action at various employers but it seemed like they were just being given manual labor tasks like cleaning out storage rooms and landscaping, with maybe a little painting thrown in for variety. I confess to drafting my son into some scut work when he had too long a winter break during his freshman year. The University of Cincinnati’s long tradition of co-op study preempted his need for further dirty work and his sister was wary of more assignments after one vacation of filing purchase orders.

My daughter became an advocate for internships after several dismal assignments early in her studies at the University of Illinois. At her urging I learned what made an internship “work” for both the student and the employer. Then I sold the idea to my bosses as a way of getting some long neglected tasks off the Engineering Department things-to-do list.

It took some effort on my part and some patience from my staff but that things-to-do list got whittled down by summer’s end. The students learned to apply some “book learning” to real world problems and to present their results before upper management. Several of the kids used their project reports in job interviews. Our company president was impressed enough to authorize another group of interns for winter break. That group got a rave review from him for presenting a unique solution to a capital spending problem worthy of a major consulting firm.

So despite the calendar, I encourage those of you who are in a position to offer summer employment to study your things-to-do lists for tasks you can delegate to eager young people. In my next posts I will give some tips on selecting projects, finding interns, and making the internship experience beneficial to everyone involved.

Each One Teach One

Charles D. Schultz

President at Beyta Gear Service
Charles D. Schultz is President of Beyta Gear Service and one of Gear Technology's technical editors.

Latest posts by Charles D. Schultz (see all)

I have posted previously about the need for mentors and teachers in the gear trade. Once a year the National Society of Professional Engineers designates a National Engineers Week when they encourage members to put on programs in schools on science and engineering. We are right in the middle of the 2014 edition, and to be perfectly honest, I wouldn’t have known it but for a helpful reminder from the Gear Technology staff.

When my children were in elementary school in the early 1990s, I took Engineers Week far more seriously and visited their classrooms to present some NSPE-produced experiments. My wonderful wife and I had a great time; our children were somewhat embarrassed, and hopefully some interest in engineering and science careers was created. We moved away shortly afterwards, so I can’t say for sure whether any of those children went on to technical careers.

I am pretty certain, however, that kids won’t get the engineering bug if they don’t get exposed to it at an early age. Not every child who tests well in math and science is cut out to be an engineer. Far too many get sent that way in high school by well-meaning guidance counselors who check the test scores and point out the good starting salaries. We also hear too much from politicians on our need for more advanced degrees in the sciences. Most of the engineers I respect entered the trade because it best fit their interests and aptitude; they honestly feel they were born to do this work and would not have been happy doing anything else. Tough classes in school, long hours at work, and even lagging appreciation from management couldn’t keep them from getting a twinkle in their eyes when discussing a technical challenge overcome.

So I don’t put on wind energy demonstrations for third graders anymore. Nor do I lead fifth graders through simulated oil spill cleanups. But I do take calls from college engineering students looking for guidance on their projects. And I try to answer e-mails looking for help understanding our sometimes baffling terminology. If you can, please visit those grade school classrooms and stir up some interest. At the very least, try to be patient with your younger colleagues and help them learn a little more each day.

Many Hands Make For Light Work

Charles D. Schultz

President at Beyta Gear Service
Charles D. Schultz is President of Beyta Gear Service and one of Gear Technology's technical editors.

Latest posts by Charles D. Schultz (see all)

As mentioned in my last posting, the AGMA Helical Gear Rating Committee ([HGRC)] was in Chicago this week for two days of work on the next edition of the basic gear rating standard and a discussion of our official American position on certain ISO methods. Eight gear engineers from around the country representing a variety of companies took time away from their busy schedules to participate. The HGRC meets in person three or four times a year and holds a like number of web-based meetings to keep the dialog going.

None of the industry participants gets paid for this effort. When they go back to their offices the work will have piled up; yet somehow they will find time to get their AGMA “homework” done too. Some of their employers will also be encouraging their participation in international standards work that requires overseas travel. There are many AGMA committees besides the HGRC where this scene is replayed with equal fervor. And amazingly enough, the AGMA has operated this way for 98 years.

I mention this because the AGMA has been a big influence on my development as a gear engineer. For those of you starting out in this trade I cannot emphasize enough how much value you will find in the standards that apply to your products. They are more current than any reference book and while they lack the cutting edge of technology found in our magazine’s articles, they represent the consensus “best practices” of our field’s experienced practitioners.

Committee membership is open to representatives from all member companies. The meeting calendar is kept current on the AGMA website and new members are always welcome. If you don’t have a travel budget, the web-exs are a great way to participate from your own workstation. In 1979 I was one of the new kids—now I am one of the old timers. The years really fly by when you are immersed in an activity you enjoy. If you are reading this blog you may be just the sort of person who will find AGMA committee work a great addition to your life in the gear trade.

PS: You also get to feel like an insider when you attend committee meetings. Today we got an early look at the list of papers for the Fall Technical Meeting. Somebody has some writing to do.

Gear Training Then and Now

Charles D. Schultz

President at Beyta Gear Service
Charles D. Schultz is President of Beyta Gear Service and one of Gear Technology's technical editors.

Latest posts by Charles D. Schultz (see all)


Blogging about gear training brings to mind the widely attended Illinois Tool Works Gear School that Bob Moderow operated on behalf of his employer. When I attended in 1979, ITW was one of the largest suppliers of gear cutting tools and gear inspection machines in the world. Times and technology have changed since then and most of ITW’s gearing assets are disbursed to other firms now. Coatings on hobs and shaper cutters greatly increased their useful life so the volume needed by industry declined. New computer assisted gear inspection machines displaced the analog devices ITW made while providing more accurate and reliable inspections.

The ITW Gear School provided the first industry-wide instruction in gear theory, manufacturing, and inspection. We owe a big debt to Bob Moderow and his co-workers for standardizing the terminology used. Thousands of engineers, foremen, and operators “graduated” from the school with an understanding of what a “good” chart looked like on a lead or a profile. Perhaps more importantly, they also knew how to adjust the process to make a bad chart become a good chart. The training materials developed for the course are still being used in shops all over the world. With modern gear grinding equipment we don’t often have to know how a mis-sharpened hob changes the involute shape but I keep the diagrams in my personal “book of knowledge.”

AGMA has picked up the torch on industry-wide gear training in recent years. Ray Drago and Bob Errichello provide top-notch courses in a wide variety of areas. Do yourself and your company a favor by attending an AGMA seminar soon. Both instructors are unsurpassed in their understanding of gear technology and are wonderful teachers as well. Those two attributes are not often found in the same person and their willingness to conduct these classes several times a year is laudable. I count myself lucky to have learned from them in the classroom. If you can’t attend a seminar in person you can find many contributions from these legends in the Gear Technology archives.

Who Taught You About Gears?

Charles D. Schultz

President at Beyta Gear Service
Charles D. Schultz is President of Beyta Gear Service and one of Gear Technology's technical editors.

Latest posts by Charles D. Schultz (see all)

“The beginning of wisdom is calling things by their proper name” — Chinese proverb

Who taught you about gears? I was blessed with some great mentors in the early years of my career, but I never met some of my most important teachers. The answers to my many questions were “in the books” in the company library, I was told. Many a lunch hour was passed devouring the collected works of Dudley, Buckingham, and Jones. As I became familiar with the terminology, my co-workers and supervisors began to explain our company’s particular “take” on gear design. Some of the positions we took now seem a bit out of date, but I still use those same reference books today.

What is your favorite gear reference book? During the summer of 2013 I had the opportunity to inventory the library of one of my favorite all-time gear people, the late Don McVittie. He had many of the same reference books I own and many that I had never seen before. His family had donated the books to The Gear Works so the next generation of gear engineers would have access to them; a generous gesture from a guy who was always willing to explain things to an interested student.

If you are an experienced gear person, I hope you will share your knowledge with others. If you are just starting out in the trade, I hope you can find a good mentor. If mentors aren’t available, I have a suggested bibliography in my book An Introduction to Gear Design. The book is a free download from my company web site www.beytagear.com. The Internet has made locating even long-out-of-print gear textbooks easier, so good luck in your scavenger hunt.