Pikes Peak Community College is partnering with local businesses to provide students with valuable work experience while helping to support local workforce needs.

by Karen Kovaly

Never underestimate the power of an internship.

It's no secret -- with the local economy thriving, there's a shortage of trained workers for a variety of skilled jobs. In response, legislators, local businesses, veterans support organizations and Pikes Peak Community College have been coming together to create solutions.

One of them has been the creation of state-funded internship programs that team the College with local businesses. This helps businesses get the workers they need now while creating a potential pipeline of skilled workers for the future. It also helps students gain valuable workplace knowledge.

One such PPCC partner in success is Relius Medical LLC, a local medical device manufacturer. In the past year, it has employed eight PPCC machining and advanced manufacturing students, three of which are military veterans.

"Through our outreach efforts and networking contacts, we were able to identify another funding source for veterans, Mt. Carmel Center of Excellence. Their support resulted in at least three of our student veterans being hired just this spring," said Eric Knutson, Relius CFO and HR Director.

Rodregus Jacobs is a Pikes Peak advanced manufacturing student studying machining and a veteran who has served all over the world as a machinist. He went back to school to learn more about his field and expand his mind.

"I'm learning a whole lot more about being a machinist now than I did in the military. Transitioning from military to school was hard because homework creates a different kind of stress. But, my computer skills and blueprint reading skills have gotten much better. I'm very excited to be here at Relius and ready to get my feet wet," said Rodregus.

Connor O'Brien is double majoring in machining technology and advanced manufacturing. He's grateful his department chair, Michele Koster, suggested an internship at Relius.

His favorite part of working in this environment?

"I like to make what is being designed. My plan is to become a mechanical engineer. In robotics classes I was able to design and manufacture a robot, and it's interesting to see the progression and exciting to know that it actually worked. It's the same concept with machining," O'Brien said.

Part of the inherent value of an internship is a student's ability to see the end result of their work. People using Relius products are those recovering from a trauma or accident.

"Since employees here have the satisfaction of knowing how these products positively affect the quality of life of the end user, morale here is very high," Knutson said.


And, that is the kind of insight students don't always get in the classroom.


PHOTO: PPCC advanced manufacturing and machining students at Relius Medical LLC, pictured left to right: Rodrigues Jacobs, Brent King, Dan Chabot, Conner O'Brien and Joe Lindgren.

(Karen Kovaly is public relations coordinator for PPCC.)