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IU Kokomo students gain valuable career experience with Chrysler Group internships

June 27, 2014
KOKOMO, Ind. — Very few college students can say they've been in charge of production at a major automotive plant.

Chysler InternsJerome Campbell (L) and Korsen Stiner (R) stand outside of Chrysler.

By the end of the summer, Jerome Campbell will be able to add that experience to his résumé, after he completes a summer internship at the Chrysler Group.

He is one of 21 Indiana University Kokomo students working as paid interns for the Chrysler Group, in areas including engineering, human resources/employee development, industrial engineering, and production. Many will play contributing roles in preparing for the local facilities' upcoming World Class Manufacturing (WCM) audits.

World Class Manufacturing (WCM) is a methodology that focuses on reducing waste, increasing productivity, and improving quality and safety in a systematic and organized way. WCM was first implemented by Fiat in 2006 and introduced to Chrysler Group as part of the alliance between the two companies in June 2009. WCM engages the workforce to provide and implement suggestions on how to improve their jobs and their plants.

Campbell, a chemistry major, leads a pre-audit effort at the Kokomo Transmission Plant, taking inventory and making sure all parts are where they are supposed to be, with the goal of eliminating redundancies and the associated costs for carrying excess inventory, a job that requires great organizational skills. He also is a summer vacation replacement supervisor, and will be able to run the production floor by the end of his 90-day experience.

"I'm learning to be a leader, and gaining people's trust," he said. "I supervised on my own one weekend. It was tough, but I got the hang of it. It's cool to be part of something this big."

Originally, he planned a career as an arson investigator, but is considering prospects in the automotive industry because of his Chrysler experience.

This is the second year for a large-scale internship program at Chrysler Group for IU Kokomo students. Chancellor Susan Sciame-Giesecke proposed the program to Brad Clark, general manager of the transmission and casting division. It offers the company specialized resources from the campus, while providing students real world job experience.

Fellow intern Korsen Stiner, from Elwood, said the internship gives him an up close look at the automotive industry — and hands-on experience creating corporate videos.

"This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to get in on the action, and get this kind of on the job experience," he said. "I feel very fortunate to be here. Chrysler is one of the biggest employers in our area. Who wouldn't want to say you were an intern here? It will open so many doors for us in our careers."

Stiner, a communication arts major, works at the Kokomo Casting Plant with recent graduate Kalie Davis, creating training, marketing, and employee involvement videos. Their current project is a video showing the casting process, from beginning to end. Next up, they will make a video titled Our Stories, featuring employees, and exploring the culture of the casting plant.

He is especially proud that casting plant leaders plan to use a trailer for their video in the upcoming WCM audit.

"There is a lot of work that goes into making videos," Stiner said. "To see the leadership making room for our work in their presentation is truly gratifying."

He also appreciates that the internship is paid, as many are not.

"Many students need the experience, and can't afford to take the unpaid time," he added.

Brenda DeForrest, salaried administration representative, said all the IU Kokomo interns perform meaningful tasks that are important to the company, and gain new skills during the process. Chrysler Group employees also learn from the interns, who share the skills gained in their college classes.

"The internships offer valuable career experience for the students, and provides Chrysler access to some of the best and brightest leaders of tomorrow," she said. "It's a part of our commitment to the communities in which we all live and work. They are our students, too, and we are proud to provide them with opportunities to grow while contributing in a meaningful way."

It also gives students a chance to consider careers available within Chrysler, she said.

"It affords students an opportunity to figure out what they want to do professionally," she said. "Chrysler has a wide breadth of career opportunities for them to consider, from running the production floor, finance, human resources, engineering, production control/logistics, and many more."

DeForrest added that there are opportunities beyond Kokomo as well. After successfully completing a summer vacation replacement (SVR) position in 2013, IU Kokomo senior Joby Renbarger, while assigned locally, is now participating in the corporate manufacturing internship program out of Auburn Hills, Mich. He will have the opportunity to share his experiences with some of manufacturing's top executives.

"We are also planning a résumé workshop for the interns, to teach them how best to market their internship experiences, and to document their experiences at Chrysler so the outside world will see the value of the work done here," said DeForrest.

Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.

Last updated: 09/16/2014