Last summer, one of five interns at Kauffman Engineering’s Lebanon, Ind. plant undertook a time and motion study of our shipping cell, examining ergonomics and employee movement to design a workstation with a footprint reduced by 20 percent. The new design increased productivity and efficiency and was a hit with the permanent employee who works there.

Perhaps most impressive, the architect of this project was not a recent engineering school graduate, or even a college upperclassman. No, the intern who accomplished this assignment was a student in a local high school. In fact, all five interns in our Lebanon plant and another in our Logansport, Ind. plant were high school students, and they were responsible for some remarkable tasks during their internships.

They tackled major projects, showing initiative and creativity in everything assigned, and bringing admirable persistence and fresh attitudes to bear. We treated them like young adults, and they delivered. One student updated our safety data sheets, coordinating and following up with suppliers. Another worked on the plant’s bar coding, creating a matrix showing where everything was located. Yet another studied our physical facility and updated our evacuation plan. The one young woman in the group took on a difficult and very highly skilled task, successfully designing and implementing a wire harness.

Bringing short-term student interns – especially high school students – into the environment of a fast-paced, precision-dependent engineering plant may seem like a challenging proposition, but through the Conexus Interns program it was possible. The program pre-qualifies the intern pool, vetting these high school students through a competitive process to ensure candidates are mature students truly interested in pursuing AML careers, and serious about the opportunity offered by these internships. Prerequisites include enrollment or successful completion of Hire Tech or Project Lead The Way pre-engineering coursework. The students’ GPAs and attendance rates, and personal recommendations from their schools are considered, along with evidence of a strong work ethic, communications skills and their desire to learn. The icing on the cake is that companies hosting these interns are reimbursed for the students’ hourly wages during the first year the company participates through grant dollars from funders including the Lilly Endowment and the JP Morgan Chase Foundation.

The primary goal is to spark the students’ interest in AML, and our interns lapped up every opportunity to learn and do. These students demonstrated strong teamwork, good communication skills and an enviable work ethic. They proved to be focused employees, who were given college-level work and did it brilliantly.

Will we participate again? Absolutely. Gov. Mike Pence has challenged Indiana employers to add 10,000 internships and other work-based learning experiences for students in a partnership between Indiana’s higher education commission, companies and colleges. Called the Career Ready Campaign, the governor’s initiative is dedicated to teaching students about Indiana’s wide range of career opportunities in Indiana. The Conexus Interns program helps the state’s AML companies take that message into local high schools, giving students a head start on discovering and preparing for highly-paid, rewarding careers in Indiana’s advanced manufacturing and logistics industries.

Our experience sold us on the benefits internships offer to students, host companies and Indiana’s economy, and we encourage other AML companies to consider hosting one or more students next summer. The Conexus Interns program simplifies the industry’s continuing efforts to strengthen the talent pool for skilled employees in Indiana’s AML industries. For more information about Conexus Interns, contact Tracey Everett at

Aaron Kauffman is Operations Manager at Kauffman Engineering, Inc. Sharon Dildine, SPHR, is Director of Administration and Human Resources at Kauffman Engineering, Inc.

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