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Finding a Manufacturing Internship or Apprenticeship

The outlook for manufacturing is actually much brighter than you might realize. Although many companies have paused their apprenticeship programs, quite a number of them are still offering these programs. In fact, we found that more than half of the apprenticeship programs offered were not affected by the pandemic.

The latest Thomas Industrial Survey assessing the ongoing impacts of COVID-19 on North American manufacturing revealed that companies are rethinking their supply chains and operation tactics to prepare for the new normal:

  • Supply Chain Shifts: Two in three (69%) manufacturing companies are looking into bringing production to North America (compared to 54% in February).
  • Hiring Trends: 38% of the companies surveyed are actively hiring. Our data also shows that industries that adopted more apprenticeship programs were overall less impacted by the lack of skilled labor available.
  • Interest in Automation: More than half of the companies surveyed also reported that they meet or exceed the industry standard for automation, with 55% of the participants being likely to very likely to invest in Production Performance Automation in the next 12 months.
  • Confidence in the Future: 91% of the respondents believe the North American manufacturing sector can recover from the pandemic.While internships and apprenticeships are similar in that they are opportunities for entry-level individuals to gain hands-on learning and experience in an industry, there are some key differences. Although there are differences between internships and apprenticeships, they are grouped together here because many of the methods to finding and securing them are the same.


    Internships are shorter than apprenticeships. They run for a few weeks or for an entire season. Internships are predominantly in the summer, but fall and spring internships exist too and may be even more popular this year, as students may have been sheltering in place and businesses may have been closed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Apprenticeships, on the other hand, generally last one to six years. Because of this, they are considered more formal, and there is the expectation that just like you would stick with your college courses you will stick through the entirety of the program and earn a certificate at the end.

    Career Track

    Internships are great for students who are looking to explore career options. They’re an opportunity to learn firsthand if certain roles and industries are a good fit for one’s personality and goals. Trying several different types can offer insight that may be helpful as you may determine you want to tailor your courseload to fit a new passion you discover from doing an internship. Or, you may discover what you thought was your dream job is actually not at all suited toward your temperament even though you have the skills to succeed in it.

    Apprenticeships are better geared toward individuals who already have a strong sense of the specific industry and role within said industry that they want to pursue. In addition to the hands-on experience that one gets, an apprenticeship further provides formal education.


    Internships are often considered voluntary, so long as they adhere to the Fair Labor Standards Act; sometimes offer a small stipend, such as costs for transportation and lunch; and, increasingly, there modest salaries given.

    Apprenticeships offer salaries. Usually the pay increases over time.

    Play the Field

    “Look at your community and identify industries, roles, and settings that pique your interest and ask your contacts there if they need help for a summer,” suggests Constance Borro, Co-founder and CEO of Mastery Portfolio.

    There may be opportunity to look into fall internships right now too, particularly as some schools may continue distance learning until the pandemic is safely over. This may also serve as a valuable time to do research into apprenticeship programs for after graudation.

    When it comes to looking for internships, there are at least two approaches to selecting between opportunities:

    Getting an internship at a well-known company will set you apart. Even if the internship isn’t exactly tailored to your specific interest, when it comes time for a company to hire you, they’ll often be more impressed by the candidate with a recognizable company name on their resume.

    That said, working at a small, family-run company often affords you more hands-on learning experience. If you are interested in really getting a feel for what the day-to-day job is like and actually making a difference at a company, a small business will likely offer you greater opportunity to do impactful work and make authentic connections with the entire team.

    Ideally, you should pick the third approach: Do both. If you’re just starting out in your internship and apprenticeship search, it’s a good time to try out different opportunities — not just so it looks good on your resume, but so that after you finish college or trade school, you have a clearer idea of which type of job best suits your skill set and professional passions. Everyone’s idea of success is different. Make sure you’re exposing yourself to different opportunities so you can fully appreciate your decisions, but ultimately stay true to your own ideals.

    6 Ways to Find an Apprenticeship or Internship

    1. Network

    What Is Networking?

    If you’re a high school student or college student, you may think networking is a bunch of older, well-established professionals in suits shaking hands — with firm grips — and using a fake laugh. Sure, there are formal networking events where this sort of thing happens, but there’s so much more to networking than that.

    Networking is really just connecting with others. Here’s a list of people who may already be in your network:

    • your current and former classmates
    • your current and former teachers and the administration
    • your family
    • your friends from camp
    • your friends and mentors from your extracurricular activities
    • your previous  boss and colleagues

    “Don’t underestimate the power of your own network. Your reputation matters, and sometimes, especially in uncertain times, an employer would rather hire someone they know and trust who can learn skills on the job than someone with experience,” says Borro.

    Applying the Kevin Bacon Principle to Networking

    Your network is actually even bigger than the people in your immediate circle — if you leverage it properly. Each of the people in your network has their own network, and by knowing them you can have access to their network.

    Let’s use pop culture to explain: You may have heard of the game Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. The theory is that every actor in Hollywood can be connected to the star of such classics as Men: First Class, Footloose, and A Few Good Men in six or fewer connections.

    Malcolm Gladwell made a similar point in his book The Tipping Point: Social psychologist Stanley Milgram asked 160 people in Omaha, Nebraska, to send a letter to a certain stockbroker in a small Massachusetts town. This was pre-Internet days, and the subjects didn’t know the stockbroker or his address, so they had to send it to someone they knew who could then get it to someone they knew and so forth, chain-letter-style, until it was personally delivered to the correct person.  On average, the letter was able to be delivered within six points of contact. Pretty impressive!

    In other words: You may be just six degrees of separation from your dream internship or apprenticeship. Or, at the very least, your aunt may know of an opening where she works and put in a good word for you.

    Ask, and Ye Shall Receive

    Here’s the catch, though: You have to ask your network for help finding an internship. You can be an honor student and the perfect candidate for an internship, but in most cases no one — except maybe your mother and guidance counselor — is going to just randomly inform you of open positions. Rather you have to start by asking your circle if they know of any open positions.

    At the same time, take some time to brainstorm the types of careers people connected to your network have so that you can ask them directly if they have any positions open at their specific companies. Here’s the distinction: In the first scenario, your buddy Jake may have scored an amazing music internship and not personally know of any manufacturing internships to tell you about; in the second scenario, you’ve remembered that Jake’s mother works as a chemical engineer — your dream job — and you’ve asked him if he would be willing to ask her, which he hadn’t even thought of but is now more than happy to do.

    2. Social Network

    Social media networking can take a variety of forms: general posting asking for help; reaching out to individual contacts for help, and following companies to see what opportunities may become available.

    According to one survey, 34% of people have posted on their Facebook wall asking their network to help them find an internship, while 47% of people have sent individual messages through Facebook to 10 or more friends personally asking them to help them find an internship.

    In addition to people, social media offers immediate access to companies. Follow companies, as they will often post opportunities for internships, apprenticeships, and job opportunities. This is particularly helpful as new opportunities may open up, even if you’ve previously seen on their website that all positions are filled.

    You’ll also get to know the company better by seeing what they usually post and its tone. This will help you tailor your application to meet their needs. You’ll sometimes further gain a sense of its company culture.

    Of course, you will want to ensure that your online image is one that will attract — not deter — potential employers and references. Even if you don’t plan on using your social media account to apply to calls for interns, keep in mind that many employers do look at your profiles to make sure that they are hiring someone who is responsible and ethical.

    Not all social media sites are created equal when it comes to internship and apprenticeship hunting.

    Top 3 Social Media Sites for Networking

    1. LinkedIn
    2. Twitter
    3. Facebook

    3. Be Active on Job Boards

    Most social media sites are just that: social. Job board sites, on the other hand, are generally less social and less about networking and more professional but distanced. They allow you to put parameters on your search so the results are tailored to your interests, experience, and location.

    On job board sites, you should upload your resume. Recruiters do large sweeps to find candidates, but do not passively rely on this. Actively seek and apply to positions. Oftentimes you can add alerts so that you receive curated lists of opportunities to apply to open positions. Tailor your resume to the company’s requirements, matching the keywords they use, and craft an engaging cover letter that shows you’ve done your homework about why you specifically want to work with this company.

    It’s not impossible to find an internship through a job board, however if you are seeking one of the most coveted positions, you would be wise not just to apply through the online form but to get a personal recommendation from someone in your network. According to, your chances of getting hired through a personal reference is significantly higher if you use a personal connection — as in 1 in 10 vs. 1 in 219 higher.

    Job Boards:

    4. Scour the Internet

    Besides memes, one of the best things about the Internet is that it efficiently offers up any information you’d like with just a few keywords. However, to find an internship or apprenticeship that’s right for you, you have to be savvy.

    Vary up your online searches. For example, do keyword searches with the word “manufacturing,” but then also do searches with more specific keyword searches, such as “robotics,” “mechatronics,”

    Also, look for similar keywords. Let’s say you want to explore the vastly popular field of automation. In addition to “automation internship,” try both “automation engineer internship” and “automation technician internship.”

    Don’t forget to also type in where you need to be located.

    Usually, these searches will take you to job board sites. However, it’s still worth the effort to type this in because it’s easy to get job board fatigue, and occasionally you will stumble upon something intriguing by doing an Internet scour that you might not otherwise find.

    For example, we typed in “virtual automation internships New York” and were met with internship opportunities where the place was listed as “anywhere.” This reminded us that sometimes our parameters on job boards can actually be limiting us from finding great opportunities. You may want to go back into your job board searches to open up your parameters.

    As with the other instances, when you find an opportunity you’re interested in, try to get a personal contact to put in a good word for you even if you apply online. This will help set you apart from other applicants.

    5. Go Directly to Company Websites

    Find out about opportunities before they get listed on job boards by going to the company website — and then apply immediately if you see an opportunity of interest. A lot of companies have job boards that will send you alerts, so sign up for those if this is a company that you’d like to intern at or do an apprenticeship at.

    Knowing about opportunities is just half the battle, though, so, as with the other examples, stand out from the crowd by finding a contact at the company who can put in a good word for you. If you don’t know anyone personally at the company, and this is your dream company to work with, put in the extra work. Use the theory of 6 Degrees of Separation to your advantage, get in an introduction, be courteous and succinct, and get that letter of recommendation.

    Your dream internship or apprenticeship may likely also be someone else’s. Therefore, it may take significantly more time to network and garner a contact that can put in a good word for you. It’s not just whom you know, though: you need a solid education and work history. You may be looking at the long game here: if you’re starting early in building your career path, this is the time to see what skill sets your dream company requires. Then put in the work, through your academic or trade school experience as well as the internships you choose leading up to applying to this one, so that you can apply to this particular internship or apprenticeship as a star candidate in the future.

    You can do keyword searches by the name of the company online, but if you don’t have a dream company in mind, you can also do searches along the lines of “best manufacturing companies,” “top 10 manufacturing companies,” “best manufacturing internships,” or “best manufacturing internships in New York,” to name a few examples, and you’ll find plenty of places to jump off from there.

    5 Examples of Industry Apprenticeships and Internships

    1. Volkswagen

    If you want to work with cars, this is the apprenticeship for you. Volkswagen’s apprenticeship program began a decade ago, and offers 24 students hands-on learning experience. All graduates of the program are guaranteed employment in the plant if they so choose to accept.

    How to Apply

    Apply through the UK Volkswagen website.

    2. Siemens

    A German company that exists throughout the world, Siemens is part of the digital revolution. They offer a three-year program based in Berlin, Germany. They don’t currently have any openings available, but they typically accept applications from January through May. Siemens offers apprenticeships in two tracks: mechatronics and electrical/electronic engineering.

    How to Apply

    Apply through the Siemens website.

    3. Boeing

    The world’s largest aerospace company, Boeing offers a number of internships. The summer 2020 internships have already been filled, but it’s worth examining the types of opportunities available so you know which skills to hone this upcoming year. The programs run 10 to 12 weeks and are at various locations in the U.S. as well as abroad.

    Types of Internships

    Boeing Business Internship — Interns will work on projects that drive growth as they explore finance, supply chain management, business operations, and human resources.

    Boeing Engineering Internship — Boeing is looking for applicants majoring in flight, electrical, mechanical/structural, materials, or software engineering to work on future innovations.

    Boeing Information Technology & Data Analytics Internship — If you’re interested in cybersecurity, information protection, systems architecture and systems integration, systems analysis, network design, application development, or project management, this internship is for you as you’ll be bolstering Boeing’s technological solutions.

    How to Apply

    Apply online by building your profile or apply in person if Boeing selects your campus to attend for a career fair. For more information, visit the Boeing internship website.

    4. General Electric

    A multinational conglomerate company, General Electric offers a variety of internships around the world on a rolling basis. In the U.S., the internships are typically August through September, and there aren’t any current openings. However, if you are doing coursework remotely and can live abroad, there are a number of openings in Brazil, Austria, and Germany.

    How to Apply

    Apply online at the General Electric website.

    5. Microsoft

    This software and technology company has positions spanning the globe.  The company does work in video games, smart devices, business solution applications, and software development, among other categories. They already have openings listed for summer 2021. They’re looking for candidates who have such Microsoft certifications as Microsoft Product Certification and Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE), meaning that if you don’t already have these certifications now is the time to get certified.

    Beyond the internships, they offer a scholarship program and the Microsoft Aspire Experience.

    How to Apply

    Apply to U.S.-based internships on the Microsoft website.

    6. Create Your Own Opportunity

    While your role as an intern or apprentice is to learn wherever you go, you’re also there to add value to the business. Therefore, when you apply, you should state your willingness to help however they see fit but you should also express what you’re trying to gain from the experience and what you can do to help advance their business needs. Do your research on the company, and then in your cover letter, provide suggestions for what actions you can take to lighten their load and add to their objectives.

    In fact, if your dream company does not run an internship or apprenticeship program, or is not currently hiring during COVID-19, you can reach out to them with your desire to intern or apprentice with them and the actionable steps you would take during your internship to help their business. This is an excellent opportunity to develop your own program tailored to your skill set while also helping a company you admire in a tangible way.

    “I’d recommend that the intern present a remote work plan to convince the employer that they will help the organization reach a goal that would be otherwise unfulfilled. I have my interns doing a lot of research (eg. the state of agriculture and women’s empowerment in Ethiopia) and then preparing summary reports. One has developed a large farmer survey for us. Last summer my intern built a new website for us as well as a folder of social media posts for us to use throughout the year. There are projects like these that sometimes get put on the back burner in really small organizations. If an intern prospect can figure out what these back burner jobs are, and if they can convince an employer that they’ll work independently and have efficient Zoom/email/text check-ins, they should be able to find something,” says Claire Sands Baker, Director of The Toothpick Project.

    What to Do If You Can’t Find an Internship

    Coveted internships get snapped up fast. Now, with COVID-19, a lot of companies have internships on hold. As much emphasis is placed on internships, don’t put undue pressure on yourself if you have to work or if all the places you applied to were filled or not accepting interns this year. A key soft skill that companies are looking for is innovation, so put on your thinking cap and get creative with building related professional experience.

    Alternatives to a Traditional Internship or Apprenticeship

    Job Shadow Programs

    Job shadow programs will pair you up with those working in the field so that you can learn directly from them. This is an excellent opportunity to learn from a mentor who is passionate about what they do. Check out the benefits of the Hopkins Alumni Association Job Shadow Program, as an example.

    Find a Mentor

    If you don’t have access to a formal internship program, create your own through a mentorship. Find a mentor whom you can shadow and assist. Reach out to companies you’re interested in working for to see if they have a formal mentorship program, and reach out to people in your network to see if they might be willing to informally mentor you. Come prepared with a list of reasonable tasks you’d like to do to help your mentor, as well as questions that will help you understand their job and your options better.

    A mentor is the type of person who may end up hiring you or, because they get to know you personally, will serve as a reference for when you do apply to an internship, apprenticeship, job, or further schooling. You can often rely on them when you’re seeking professional advice.

    Get a Related Job

    “Be willing to work a job at the bottom of the ladder and work your way up- a good manager will notice a hard worker, and an owner definitely will!” says Borro.

    Get a job in the field you’re pursing that will give you experience you can grow from. While internships are meant to provide opportunities to get you that starting job, sometimes you can find jobs or volunteer experiences that bypass the internship route completely.

    Conversely, get any old job you can at the company you desire to work at one day so you get your foot in the door. We’ve all heard stories of the person working their way up from the mailroom to the position they want. That could be you. Les Brown is considered a legendary motivational speaker, and as he shares on Goalcast, he persistently applied to a job that didn’t exist at a radio station, eventually landing a job getting coffee, and then he prepared and created an opportunity for himself to get on the air.

    Position Yourself as an Expert

    If you have writing skill and social media skills, you can start a blog or social media account specifically devoted to your area of interest. Create thoughtful posts that add value to readers to gain a following. Although this hasn’t been a traditional route for most people working in the manufacturing sector, it’s a demonstrated tool for building a platform in other industries and, therefore, worth considering.

    Ready to Take Your Next Step? Thomas Offers the Following:

Source : Thomas Publishing

Stephanie Nikolopoulos is the editor of Thomas Insights and the Thomas Industry Update newsletter.

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