Launch Slideshow

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The Replacements

The Replacements

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    Photo: Stephanie Diani/Getty Images

    Millennial Lindsey Mannan (left center) and Gen Xer Kathy Mahboubian (right center) are being groomed by their baby-boomer mentors Jill Thomas (left) and Alan Oswald to navigate the ins and outs of the Engineering & Building Department in San Juan Capistrano, Calif.

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    Photo: Morton College

    Right: Since Morton College, Cicero, Ill., was refurbished to attract the latest generation of students, enrollment has increased. Two students share ideas over a laptop, which is built into a cubby wall that provides quiet computer space in the college's hallways.

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    Photo: Operations and Maintenance Division, Washington County, Ore.

    Ben Walnum gets acquainted with the public sector as an intern for Washington County's Department of Land Use and Transportation.

Case study: Co-ops and internships

Reach out to future employees while they're still in school.

Greg Clemmons knows the value of an intern.

With engineering interns, Clemmons, an engineer with the Operations and Maintenance Division of the Department of Land Use and Transportation in Washington County, Ore., gets a chance to:

  • Deploy additional manpower during high work periods
  • Expose students to public-sector careers
  • Provide interns with a solid understanding of infrastructure-related engineering, which helps the department when these future engineers enter the workforce.
  • Clemmons also knows how to find quality interns.

    He represents his department as a chair of Oregon's Civil Engineering CoOp Program (CECOP), which matches engineering students from Oregon State University, Portland State University, and the Oregon Institute of Technology with member companies for internships. CECOP, a branch of the 30-year-old Multiple Engineering Cooperative, partners the universities with more than 100 private firms and public agencies.

    Through CECOP, students are interviewed, screened, and selected for a work-study program that bridges academics with real-world engineering. During two paid six-month internships, one in the private and one in the public sector, students help lessen the workload on projects while gaining experience.

    Public agencies pay a $3,000 annual fee to participate. In return, says Clemmons, “we get a work-ready employee that fills a niche. After a short indoctrination period they're helping survey, design, and inspect the work.”

    He's working with the department's ninth CECOP intern, who is also the county's 40th. Upon graduation, most interns find permanent positions with consultant firms; because the growing county turns to consultants for many capital improvement projects, these former interns usually end up working on county projects.

    “The real value is in giving interns six months of experience in the public sector for when they go to work with private consultants,” says Clemmons. “The bulk of their work usually is public projects.”