Externships Take the Summer Spotlight at Northwest State Community College

Q&A with Brad Geer, Prior and Workplace Learning Coordinator
Monday, July 29, 2019
Ohio Rotational Molding (ORM)

Northwest State Community College in Archbold, Ohio has a unique externship program taking place this summer. Brad Geer, prior and workplace learning coordinator at Northwest State, recently answered a few questions about the project and process.

What exactly is an “externship”?

Externships are typically considered a project-based experiential learning experience, compared to internships, which are typically hourly, and apprenticeships, which are more curriculum driven.

Are both faculty and students participating this summer?  

Yes, we have three science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) faculty doing individual, deliberate externships in our local economy and one student group taking on a project for a local manufacturer. The student group consists of six students and three faculty advisers. Ohio Rotational Molding (ORM) has sponsored the team and offered a creative project for the team to focus on.

How did Ohio Rotational Molding become involved?

ORM is a plastics manufacturer in Holgate, Ohio. Bryan Chance, COO and partner of ORM, was introduced to me by Jennifer Arps of the Henry County Community Improvement Corporation. Bryan first talked about his need for computer numerically controlled (CNC) operators and programmers, but after some discussion, we realized that he could be better served by a Lean 5S approach (See sidebar for more on Lean 5S).  

So how did the team approach this challenge in practical terms?

The team came up with a Project Plan to solve the immediate problem, establish a standard operating procedure to move forward, and establish a training program for the company.  

The first stage of the project began with system data recovery and restoration from a damaged 1995 hard drive, then software updates to allow for rapid CNC programming.  

What type of time frame does a project like this involve?

This first stage took four weeks to complete. The second stage, standard operating procedures, is scheduled for another four weeks, followed by training and close out.

What are the benefits of a project like this? 

I think in the long term, ORM benefits from this project because it will potentially get a worker from this group of students. The company also benefits because it had access to resources it normally would not have had as the group was well rounded.

The biggest winners here were the students, as it exposed them to a real-life scenario where a job needed to be launched from start to finish. They experienced the variety of ways it could have been processed, settled into one way, and even got to experience the pressure of a tight deadline with a real customer. This was an experience I am sure they will remember as they proceed into their careers.