TeXas conneXion

Sep 8, 2006

Kettering has always drawn students from across the country, but new connections in Texas are creating stronger ties between the Lone Star State and the University.

Their hometowns are spread across the state map and their co-op jobs range from manufacturing engineering to statistical analysis to product development. But Kettering students from the Lone Star State share a love of Texas and an appreciation for the cooperative education program at Kettering.

One of the most powerful aspects of the co-op experience, Kettering's Texas contingent agree, is the relationships they have developed with professionals in their chosen field. "The most rewarding part of my co-op job is being able to work closely with engineers who have been working in their respective fields for such a long time," said Robert James Riggs, a junior from Spring, Texas. "They have such vast experience and knowledge in the field and so much to offer," he added.

Jon Hermann, a junior from San Antonio, and Allen Stone, a junior from Fort Worth, add that a sense of accomplishment and teamwork contribute to the co-op experience. Hermann said he finds it rewarding to know that he actually makes a difference at his co-op employer, Texas Machining Enterprises in San Antonio.

"Being able to see the direct result of the hard work you and your team put into solving a problem creates a great sense of accomplishment," said Stone, "that is something I've seen on many different levels here at UPS," he added.

Real world application of what they learn in the classroom is also important to the Texas contingent. "Through my co-op job I am able to use a lot of engineering fundamentals I learned in Statics, Solids, and many other classes," said Sibin Luke, a senior from Sugar Land, Texas.

Riggs said a lot of the skills he uses at work were developed in the classroom. "I use statistics and statistical software to do much of the process analysis to find improvements at work," he said. "When improving processes or fixing something, you need to have good design skills, be able to take into consideration the materials needed, the costs included, and most importantly how the workers will be effected by this change," said Riggs. He feels his classroom experiences at Kettering have given him a strong foundation for his job.

Kettering's cooperative education program is structured to integrate the theory taught in the classroom with the experience gained in the workplace through a year round rotation of three-month academic and co-op work terms. Co-op employment affords students progressively more responsible work experiences during the tenure of their employment. Kettering students are currently employed at more than 700 companies in 800 locations.

Kettering has had co-op partners in Texas since the 1970s through the General Motors Arlington facility, according to Darren Heartwell, Corporate Relations manager for Texas. The program expanded to include other companies in the 1990s. There are now between 12 and 17 students employed at eight active corporate partners in the state, Heartwell said, including:

  • Stemco LP in Longview,
  • UPS in Carrollton,
  • Hilite International in Carrollton-Dallas,
  • Zemer International in Midlothian,
  • Texas Machining Enterprises in San Antonio,
  • Texolon Plastomer Technologies, an EnPro Industries Company in Houston,
  • Delphi Corporation in Houston
  • and General Motors in Arlington.

"The Texas economy is growing and there is a lot of potential for growth in the co-op program in the Dallas and Fort Worth areas," said Heartwell. "We would love to do more in Texas," he said, "my challenge is to recruit more local students to fill positions with co-op partners in the state."

Professional co-ops give Kettering students a distinct advantage at graduation. With two years of professional work experience on their resumes AND a degree in a Science, Engineering, Technology or Math (STEM) field, nearly 100 percent of Kettering graduates are employed or in graduate school within six months of graduating.

When they graduate, Kettering's current Texas contingent will find that as STEM degree holders they are in high demand in the U.S. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), competition is heating up for new and future college graduates - especially in the STEM disciplines.

This increased competition is translating into higher starting salaries. The NACE Spring 2006 Salary Survey report shows that many disciplines at the bachelor's degree level are getting salary offers better than those offered just a year ago, according to the NACE web site (http://www.naceweb.org/).

Despite the inter-state commute, Kettering students from Texas are finding their long-distance relationship between college and home/work is already paying off through the co-op-enhanced educational experience that will translate into a high-demand job at graduation.

"My co-op job has given me a good understanding of engineering and how it relates to the various other operations of a business," said Luke. "And I have been able to develop relationships with some of the best engineers and managers in the industry."

With an expected graduation date of December 2006, Luke is all set to put his education, professional work experience and professional connections to good use.

Written by Dawn Hibbard