What were you doing the summer before your junior year in high school? Amber Rohlena, a student from Benton Community, was putting her knowledge and skills to work as a summer intern at Johnson Gas Appliance Company.
"In past years my brothers had taken multiple internships. My dad recommended them highly," shares Amber. "When I started looking at internship opportunities I was looking at a bigger company but then I saw the opportunity at Johnson Gas. They were a smaller company and it referenced working with Computer Aided Design (CAD). I had taken a few Project Lead The Way (PLTW) classes (Intro to Technology and Intro to Engineering Design) where I learned about and used CAD. I also used CAD a lot in my Robotics club and I really liked it. So I went for it. I am glad I did!"
Dan Hodel, Amber's internship supervisor at Johnson Gas, is really glad she did too! "Our experience with Amber has had a dramatic impact on our whole division! During her internship she was part of a huge project where we were experimenting with a new software." According to Dan, it was through Amber and this project they were able to prove the effectiveness of this software. " Her success was a major factor in convincing corporate management to buy the new software licenses for our division. We're now 10 times faster, a number we can prove quantitatively." Corporate management took notice too. "They have much more interest and investment in our division. In fact, in the past fiscal year, our division has had more orders than ever before. The increase was not economy driven, but all directly tied back to work Amber did during her initial internship here at Johnson Gas."
When asked about the highlights of her experience at the end of her internship at Johnson Gas, Amber writes "Everything is a highlight! The people here are amazing and fun to be around. The work area is beautiful. I love the jobs that get handed to me. I love the challenges that I come by every once in a while. It feels good to walk into Johnson Gas."
The internship had plenty of learning experiences for Amber. "I loved learning more about CAD. They taught me lots of new things I didn't know, like shortcuts and little tricks to make it easier." The experience also afforded Amber opportunities to apply problem-solving, communication, and organizational skills in a professional environment. During this experience Amber says "I forced myself to be more organized. When I was more organized it was easier to build upon what I was doing. I think it really helped everyone else too."
Laura Kowalski-Bliss, Workplace Learning Connection's Internship Coordinator for Benton, Cedar and Jones counties met Amber at a site visit during her internship at Johnson Gas. "Amber had great skills and knowledge from her classes. She just needed practical experience which is what the internship program is meant to provide. It is why internships are so important. Everyone benefits, the student, the company, and the community!" Dan agrees, "This truly was a major win-win!"
Since completing her summer 2015 internship, Johnson Gas has hired Amber as a part-time employee working on small projects from home during the school year. "I love how flexible Johnson Gas has been. It really helps since I am still in high school."
As for the future, Amber, now a senior, says "It did make me start to think about other aspects of engineering. I definitely plan on going to college next year." Amber says she has narrowed down her college choices but regardless where she lands next fall all agree, her experience with Johnson Gas was a building block for a very bright future!
Are you inspired by Amber's story? Now is the time to act for Fall 2016! Check out our WLC Partnership. This story was published in the September 2016 - Work. Learn. Connect. Newsletter from the WLC.