By Emily McGrath, Deputy Director of Workforce Development, NextFlex
NextFlex hosted five high school interns for six weeks this summer in partnership with the Silicon Valley Organization’s Strive Internship program. Students came from a variety of schools across the San Jose Unified and East Side Unified High School Districts, representing grade levels from rising juniors to incoming college freshman. The five interns worked in the NextFlex Technology Hub and in Information Technology. Over the course of the summer, interns completed tasks ranging from analyzing printed ink resistance patterns to materials characterization, to designing and coding a display panel featuring equipment in the facility.
It’s no secret that hosting high school interns can be daunting to a sponsor, but the rewards are tremendous for all involved when done right. The internship work plan that strikes the right balance between challenging and achievable requires careful consideration. The NextFlex Technology Hub and IT teams put a lot of thought into identifying ambitious tasks and providing the necessary training to ensure interns would acquire new skills while also providing real value to NextFlex. Their efforts paid off very nicely. Our cohort of teenage interns quickly learned to operate a wide variety of highly specialized tools and use computer programming languages, allowing them to perform tasks from application development to manufacturing small-scale production of flexible Arduino demonstrators.
Technology Hub Intern Grace Kwak, a rising junior at San Jose Unified School District’s Pioneer High School, told us:
Five weeks sounded like plenty of time to get the gist of the workflow here. I thought I would get an impression of how everything goes, and that it would be enough for me. However, I soon found out that there’s exciting change happening all the time; things never get old.
Throughout my time, I helped different people, learned how to use different equipment, and moved forward from past mistakes. Some days, I was on the Keyence or the FocalSpec, analyzing the ways that certain inks and epoxies stuck to substrates. That information was then put into reports, which helped determine our next course of action. In addition, I had my own time to explore other complex equipment that was capable of incredible precision, machines that brought my idea of robotics to an entirely new level. I found myself learning more and more in this real-world setting.
I’m proud to have contributed to the team in small ways here and there, thanks to the people who took the time to teach me what I wanted to learn. I’m walking away with so much more than what I came with, and I know that I’ll be back in the industry someday soon.
As Grace’s experience demonstrates, internships accomplish multiple goals that benefit both hosting companies and students. Industry mentors get the opportunity to reach into the future talent pool, inspiring and orienting students into the education and career pathways that will bring them back as future employees. Students, meanwhile, can hone their soft skills, flex their technical muscles, and test-drive different jobs and roles within a company. The result is a talent pool of graduates who not only have on-the-job training and a solid foundation of practical technical knowledge but have made informed decisions about their career trajectory based on real experience.
Brynt Parmeter, NextFlex Director of Workforce Development noted, “The value that this group of interns provided to NextFlex was astonishing. We once again validated that young people love building things and all it takes is a little effort to help them see the pathways to become the future of advanced manufacturing.”
NextFlex interns analyzing FHE circuit geometry in the Technology Hub
High school intern Tate Morillo showing the 150 Flexible Arduino samples that he made in one dayBack to all news