Paul Geiger, HR Business Analyst at Robert Weed Corp., knows what it takes to have a successful internship. A graduate of the LIFT Initiative Internship Program’s inaugural class of 2021, he is now part of the team managing LIFT interns at his company.
Funded via the Labs for Industry Futures and Transformation (LIFT) Initiative grant, the LIFT Initiative’s Internship Program brings together students from regional colleges and universities to internships at local companies focused on advanced industries such as technology, manufacturing, data science and analytics, supply chain or logistics management, and research and development. The program subsidizes half of the wages of up to two approved internship positions for each employer partner, reimbursing up to $2,500 per intern.
The summer Paul participated in the LIFT intern program, he was one of 34 interns supporting over 20 companies in the South Bend – Elkhart region. He was brought on as a Human Resources Intern at Robert Weed Corp., a plywood manufacturer based in Bristol, Ind. The company employs more than 230 and supplies the recreational vehicle and manufactured home industries. Prior to this internship, Paul was a biology major at the University of Minnesota. He quickly discovered an interest in the HR field.
“My internship project was revamping our vacation policy at Robert Weed, which ended up being successfully implemented,” Paul said. “This was all new to me. I didn’t have much of a background in HR. I’m still learning as I go.”
As an intern, Paul had tremendous opportunities at Robert Weed. In addition to his work on the vacation policy, he was able to earn a Six Sigma Green Belt certification – the first Six Sigma Green Belt at the company. He now helps teach Six Sigma classes. He contributed to a compensation study and gained event planning skills by implementing monthly employee lunches.
“I also had the opportunity to attend strategic planning with the executives of the company,” Paul said. “I thought that was really interesting. We even got to present about different generations in the workplace and how to work together in the future, which I thought was a really interesting opportunity for an intern.”
Through the LIFT intern program, students were able to meet and network with other interns in the area for both social and professional development. He enjoyed meeting leaders throughout the region and participating in outings like attending the Elkhart Jazz Fest, visiting the Studebaker National Museum, and going to a South Bend Cubs game. Through the program, he bonded with his fellow interns, including Tomas, another intern at Robert Weed, who also still collaborates with the corporation as a consultant.
“It was nice to have a community of different people sharing the experience of internships in the area and connecting with one another,” said Paul. “It made things less intimidating. It was really interesting to meet business leaders in the South Bend – Elkhart region. The extra community aspect of LIFT was a big benefit.”
“I don’t see why you wouldn’t do it if given the option. It seems like a luxury,” he said.
From his position in the HR department, Paul works closely with the intern program at Robert Weed.
“We expanded our internship program this year,” said Paul. “We had nine interns this year; we only had five last year. Each year we had two in the LIFT program I did a lot of planning on how things would go for them logistically, where they would stay if coming from far away for the summer, planning out different fun things to do during the summer, and how the reporting structure would work.”
Both of the LIFT interns at Robert Weed came from Purdue University, one a recent graduate and the other a current university student. Both are staying on at Robert Weed in some capacity.
“I think the internship program has had a heavy impact at Robert Weed. The LIFT interns are doing fantastic work,” he said. “The safety intern, for example, installed MDI [Managing Daily Improvement] boards all across the plant, and it was a big success. One intern is extending his internship and the other is joining us as a full-time employee. It speaks to the quality of interns coming through the LIFT program, for sure.”
The LIFT Initiative’s Internship Program partners include the University of Notre Dame’s Center for Civic Innovation, enFocus, IT Sector Partnership, Greater Elkhart Chamber of Commerce, Plymouth Chamber of Commerce, and the South Bend Regional Chamber.