Real-World Projects Make Mutually Beneficial Internship Program

Gail BryantWorkforce

A celebration took place Tuesday at ULTRAX Aerospace, where a group of interns recently completed a summer internship program. The Lee’s Summit company creates mission-critical maintenance and sustainment technologies for aircraft and fleets.

Ten engineering students from prestigious programs at universities such as Missouri Science and Technology, University of Missouri, Kansas State University and Truman State University were selected. There were also recent graduates from Blue Springs, Blue Springs South and Lee’s Summit West High Schools, some of whom also attended Summit Technology Academy.

Over the course of 12 weeks, they used their STEM knowledge to create innovative solutions to real-world business challenges.

“They’re not out of a textbook or theoretical issues. These are real issues that ULTRAX wants resolved,” said Bob Champion, ULTRAX Customer Service and Quality Manager.

2019 was the third year the company has provided an internship. As ULTRAX has grown the program, its leaders have become focused and organized in how to achieve outcomes that benefit all involved. As a result, ULTRAX decided to allow interns to work on projects the company intends to directly use as part of their business. This summer, many of the projects the interns worked on came from suggestions by ULTRAX’s owners and its manufacturing engineers on projects they wanted completed.

“ULTRAX is a model for internship programs,” said Tina Chace, LSEDC Director of Business Development. “Allowing interns to work on real projects creates an immediate benefit for both the students and the company. The students get professional development and the company gets quality work that they can use right away.”

Chief Financial Officer Dave Petet, said giving the interns a chance to work on consequential projects is just as beneficial to the company as it is to the interns.

“I can’t even tell you what the return of investment is because it goes on and on and on for years,” said Petet.

Tuesday, the interns presented the results of their 12 week projects. Whether creating new databases, new products, or new protocol for applying for certifications, ULTRAX President Troy Prewitt said that the interns exceeded expectations with the end products they delivered. Prewitt said the interns’ work was a meaningful contribution to lay the groundwork for ULTRAX to advance its initiatives.

Beyond expanding their engineering skills, many of the interns said the soft skills they learned were just as meaningful.

“I’ve learned a lot about time-management and self-management,” said intern Eli Cook. “We weren’t being told what to do every minute of every day.”

Production Manager Sean McLaughlin supervised the interns. McLaughlin said at the beginning he and other mentors would guide the interns, but it did not take long for the interns to show true ownership in their projects.

“In the last half they basically took over everything. They’d bring us their project reports, their action items, everything,” said McLaughlin. “It was basically hands-off with the project. Our role as the supervisor and the mentor was to make sure that they had the resources they needed.”

This year, ULTRAX was able to hire one of their interns, who will attend Metropolitan Community College-Longview while working.

Learn more about Lee’s Summit’s unique talent pipeline