ECC Partners With Manufacturer to Provide Internships for Welding Students
East Central College and WEG Transformers USA embarked on a collaboration project that has benefited both the college’s welding students and the Washington-based manufacturer of power transformers.
WEG Transformers provided an internship for four ECC Welding students who learned the ropes while working for the industry. Through the internship, the students gained hands-on, real-word experience at the manufacturer. WEG is a multi-national company that produces power and distribution transformers at its Washington plant for North America and overseas.
The students — Holly Downey, Sadie Meyer, Zach Regot and Cole Vance — completed the internship in the Fall 2022 semester and earned 5 credits hours each.
WEG and ECC developed a four-week internship that assesses students from safety, attendance, welding, blueprint reading and communication, according to ECC Welding Program Coordinator Bobby Bland.
“The interns were partnered with select employees from WEG that would be a great fit to the needs of the students, while working with the employees, students got to see first-hand to what working in a manufacturing facility was really like,” Bland said. “As instructors we can talk about the experience all we want in class but for student to be in that production environment it is higher learning education at its finest.”
Once they completed the internship, students were given a writing assignment to reflect on their experience at WEG.
“The papers were above and beyond my expectations of what they learned while they participated in the internship,” said Dr. Richard Hudanick, dean of career and technical education. “Students wrote about their struggles, triumphs and excitement, coming back with more value that they can share with their fellow students in class, which really engaged the rest of the class.”
“These students are developing talent in an ever-expanding field of transformer manufacturing where welding is core,” he added. “This is a success story.”
WEG USA Human Resource Director Chris Vansickle said the ECC students worked closely alongside WEG employees and learned from the company’s culture.
“We value each individual contribution to our success, and we motivate people by means of integrity, ethics and constant support to personal development,” he said. “Working as a team, we gather the best knowledge, intelligence and skill to constantly improve our work and benefit our customers.
“Every day we work to make things better. All products, processes and developments are driven by the desire to increase efficiency,” Vansickle added.
Hudanick said Bland met with the four students, and WEG supervisors and employees after the conclusion of the internship to gather information to make the next collaboration even more successful.
“Internships and apprenticeships are the future of filling manufacturing employment opportunities within our community,” Hudanick said.
ECC and WEG Partnerships
The College’s Adult Education and Literacy program and WEG already had been working together before the welding internships.
More than 30 WEG employees are being taught English Language Acquisition (ELA) courses through the ECC AEL program.
The students joined WEG in 2021 through the International Institute of St. Louis (IISTL) — an immigrant and job placement service/information hub which connects refugees and immigrants to a variety of opportunities in the St. Louis region. The jobs range from entry-level to professional positions, within a variety of industries.
AEL Director Alice Whalen and Vansickle worked together to implement the ELA courses at WEG.