Taking Flight

By Allison R. Stormo

“The grass is greener where you water it, not on the other side,” said Josh Bigler, a senior finance and operations management major in the University of Idaho’s College of Business and Economics.

Boeing interim Josh BiglerThe philosophy which Bigler has chosen to adopt has pushed him to take proactive steps toward a successful future and is a philosophy shared by many CBE students. It has been a key ingredient in making U-Idaho among the Top 10 universities with students participating in Boeing’s Northwest Business Internship Program.

“Proportionately, University of Idaho has more interns than bigger schools because of their great performance,” said James Garnett, senior manger of business employee development and the internship
program coordinator.

In summer 2012, Boeing selected 20 U-Idaho interns — and a majority of those were CBE students.
“University of Idaho is lending itself to opportunities to open doors for students. It gives a leg up,” said Clinton Woo, superintendent of advanced developmental composites at Boeing’s Renton, Wash., facility and the executive focal for University of Idaho.
As executive focal, Woo builds a supportive relationship with the university and encourages collaboration between Boeing and U-Idaho in areas such as creating internships, coordinating on scholarships, sponsoring on-campus expos, as well as creating visibility and job opportunities for students.

The key to opening those doors in CBE is experiential learning, he said. CBE offers myriad programs in which students can not only be involved, but also be fully engaged and become leaders.

Having involvement in programs such as Vandal Solutions, the Davis Investment Group, the Business Process Center, or Barker Capital Management and Trading Program are components Boeing is seeking in
an application.

“It is not about the number of groups [that students are involved in],” said Annie Kato, co-coordinator of the internship program, “but showing they are fully engaged.”
Boeing interim Devon Giguiere
Involvement has paid off for students like Devon Giguiere, who completed two Boeing internships. She has been involved in the business ethics initiative and was part of the CBE student team sent to the University of Arizona’s Eller School of Management Ethics Case Competition in 2010. She also is a funded trader in the Barker program.

The work the finance major has done in CBE laid the groundwork to gain outside experience she could not get in the classroom.

“It is a wake up call about how businesses are run,” she said of her summers at Boeing. “Being in an internship gives you a realization that you can not grasp in the classroom. In a classroom it is all theory, but in an internship, you can put it to practice. You can see the concepts being applied.”

Jacob Carlson discovered that doing work as an intern at Boeing is a lifetime away from the manual labor he has done during most of his summers to pay for college.

“My manager did a great job giving me as much work as possible. I had as much work as a normal, full-time Boeing employee,” he said. “It was like drinking from a fire hose.”

The finance and operations management major had a preconceived notion that interns in general aren’t taken seriously. Instead, he found Boeing opened his eyes to the opportunities waiting for him.

“Because I am from a small state, I had this idea — with my blinders on — that no one would take me seriously,” he said. “Now I know I can compete with the best of them — even being from small-town
Idaho.”

6 Boeing internsAnd competition is fierce. According to Kato and Garnett, about 2,000 applicants from across the country go through the initial screening for the Northwest program. Of those applicants, only the 233 most-qualified were selected for summer 2012. The programs that have set U-Idaho interns apart and given them the experience
to gain an internship also bodes well for the hiring process.

Being an intern can be the main entry point into the company, as Boeing uses the program to identify top talent. The internship program coordinators start creating the pipeline early in students’ education and work to target rising stars who typically are juniors and seniors.

The company also uses simulation and quality capstone projects taught by Scott Metlen, associate professor of operations management, as a way to engage students. The classes, Systems and Simulation and Quality Management, involve companies offering a process improvement project for teams of students to work
through. Processes include distribution, management, control and design processes. Representatives from the companies also come to campus to review the progress of the projects.

“University of Idaho alumni are hiring our students because of these projects,” Metlen said. “Part of it is that they like the skills students have.”

“Without the projects, the students might not be seeing the Boeing representatives, getting the high profile or seeing such large number of interns at Boeing,” Metlen said.

Getting involved early in college can be critical to attaining the skills used in the project that can help land a competitive internship. Garnett suggests students find something they are interested in and get involved. Options could include a campus job, volunteering or participating in clubs. Kato also says creating a relationship with a professor is important. Professors, like Metlen, who are familiar with the process of applying can help students navigate the system.

Metlen takes a step out of the classroom and helps teach students how to tailor résumés for jobs and internships, sets up interviews and encourages networking by coordinating a mentorship program.
He also held a get together at his house with a group of internship candidates to facilitate conversations and an initial interview with Doug Whitehouse who serves on the U-Idaho Boeing Buddies Mentoring Program, as well as working in industrial engineering and lean manufacturing.

Bigler says building a relationship with Metlen has been valuable.

“Scott Metlen won’t take the credit,” Bigler said. But he believes Metlen has been critical to helping him get a Boeing internship and cites that Metlen remains very connected to his students.

“They are good students and good people. Put them in a good program, and they excel,” Metlen said.
Metlen says it is not unusual for many of his students to climb the ladder quickly and make a considerable income soon after graduation.

“Give them a little training, and away they go,” Metlen said.

Even students recognize that being part of the College of Business and Economics will help them succeed.
“Incoming students have one of the best educations available, and they should take advantage of the programs,” Carlson said.