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Milford High School hosts externship summit

Leading industry partners joined students for Milford High School’s Manufacturing Exploration and Externship program on Nov. 13.

The externship program was spearheaded by Milford high school and applied technology center instructors Jennifer DiMaria and Frank Xydias.

The first round of student work experience at Spraying Systems and Hitchiner Manufacturing were discussed, touting the benefits of allowing high school seniors the opportunity to experience working in a manufacturing atmosphere. The students earned seven college credits and were paid for their externship hours.

Two new industry partners were announced: Alene Candles, who will host students next semester with the current partners; and BAE will be starting as the program’s fourth partner in the fall of 2020.

Many of the students on the panel expressed that while they signed up for the externship, they didn’t know what to expect, and were uncertain of what they would pursue after graduating from high school.

“This class has really helped”, said Connor Kryski. “I would suggest that anyone interested in a career in engineering or manufacturing to take this course.”

Jaya Labour said a program like this can provide multiple opportunities

“I feel like people like me will look at the class and see only the college credits,” he said. “But I feel like it will offer more opportunities even to those who aren’t going to college once they graduate.”

Caroline Boudreau added, “It taught me how different the working world is compared to the learning world. It gave me a completely different perspective.”

The panel welcomed questions from the members of the audience; the first being, “How did this experience change your focus?”

“It allowed me to look past the initial thought many students have of ‘when am I going to use this in life?'” said Kryski. “And I was able to see that every piece of what we learn has value.”

The next panel featured business representatives Joe Ruelas, vice president of operations for Spraying Systems, Heidi Ebol, director of human resources for Alene Candles and Tim Sullivan, vice president of administration for Hitchiner.

Sullivan discussed summer interning students and said he would like to replicate the externship program there.

“Cellular manufacturing and staying in one place is something that’s an element in all of our companies,” he said. “But there are other jobs out there too that aren’t cellular manufacturing.”

Ebol expressed that while Alene Candles has yet to begin the program, she’s “learning from the best.”

Shifting gears, she added, “I thought back on my experience, and had no idea of what I wanted to do. I was not able to be a part of any internship program until I was at UNH. I was able to then get the benefit of that, of knowing what I did want to do, and what I didn’t want to do.”

Ruelas talked about formulating a partnership with the program.

“What interested me, is that I started as a 19-year old kid out of high school that started at Spraying,” he said. “Knowing nothing, and little by little, they provided the training for me, I was able to work the hours that I wanted to and they paid for my schooling, and that always stayed in my head.”

After opening the panel for questions and answers, one audience participant asked how the maturity level of a having a high school student work in a manufacturing plant impact work there as a whole.

“Milford does a great job of preparing the students,” said Ruelas. “I personally couldn’t tell the different between a high school aged student and a college aged student. That comes from their parents and their family.”

“I would agree with that,” said Ebol. “We have had the opportunity to work with Milford high school students and they are very well prepared to come in. They also have a lot of check-ins, so it works really well for us. I appreciate what they do in order to get the students ready.”

From a Hitchiner perspective, Sullivan said it’s a little difficult as they have so little time to spend with the students.

“In the seven weeks that we have the students, the first two weeks is interviewing,” he said. “Then for us, we put the students in a training cell, which is offline. It’s only six days in and on the manufacturing floor. For the next group, we will revisit that.”