Archive for the 'Internship Programs' Category

Interns: A secret weapon to curb corporate pollution

Monday, September 18th, 2017 by

This piece, written by Cyrus Philbrick and Laura Barnes, originally appeared on GreenBiz in January, 2016 as a P2 Impact column.

In 1989, as part of a new program, the Illinois EPA’s Office of Pollution Prevention placed a single student intern at an electroplating facility.

That student wrote a thorough report of pollution prevention (P2) recommendations. In 2004, one of the facility’s managers said that they were still using the report.

“Fifteen years later, they were still working through the list to implement one recommendation at a time,” said Richard Reese, director of the IEPA intern program. “That’s remarkable. And it shows some of the long term value of the program.”

Although many businesses and organizations want to become more sustainable, they often lack the time and money to implement specific projects. In many states around the country, intern programs are filling this demand by placing engineering and environmental science students at companies to conduct focused research on specific pollution prevention and energy efficiency projects.

As of November, about 44 pollution prevention internship programs exist in states around the country. IEPA currently places about 15 students per year at manufacturing facilities, trade associations, business development centers, government facilities and military installations. [update:  IEPA’s P2 intern program was discontinued in late 2016]

Each intern selected for the program is required to attend a one-week training class, which covers topics such as: net zero waste; energy efficiency (lighting, boilers, HVAC, motors/VFDs and air compressor systems); water conservation; process mapping; and renewable energy. Once on the job, the intern must adhere to a work schedule, follow company policies and regulations, work with other staffers and prepare bi-weekly progress reports.

Intern programs benefit students and businesses alike. Roger Price, director of the PennTAP intern program at Penn State University, praises the way the program lets students put theory into practice.

“The intern program allows students the first glimpse of how what they’ve been trained to do, to think and problem solve, applies to real world problems,” Price said. “I often hear them say, ‘Oh, now I see!’”

Measuring results

Bruce Dvorak, director of the Partners in Pollution Prevention (P3) program of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL), gave numerous concrete examples of the ways that Nebraska businesses have benefitted from having dedicated student assistance with specific problems.

In one case, an ethanol plant traditionally had sent its waste sludge to a local landfill. The company had considered applying the sludge to farm fields but was concerned about running afoul of state environmental or agricultural laws.

A UNL intern helped the company sort through the legal, economic and environmental ramifications of the company’s waste disposal. By networking with both the state Department of Agriculture and the Department of Environmental Quality, the intern uncovered a simple solution. Bio-solid sludge qualified as wet distiller’s grain and could therefore be sold as animal feed. Recycling the sludge eliminated sending 9 million pounds of it to the landfill each year.

Intern programs also appear to have long-term positive impacts on students and for the companies that eventually employ them.

“The greatest impact of the P3 program is the potential contribution student interns will make as they join the workforce,” Dvorak said.

Based on a series of studies conducted on his P3 Program as well as others, Dvorak suggests that students that have completed intensive intern programs are more likely to apply source reduction principles in their workplace and are more able to quantify the impact of implementation.

Businesses realize significant savings by implementing recommendations. In 2011 and 2012 alone, the IEPA program helped facilities save over $1.9 million in operating and disposal costs. Through recommendations implemented between 1997 and 2014, the UNL P3 program saved businesses an estimated $21.8 million.

“Interns have paid for themselves in every capacity,” said Chris Meyer, a plant manager at Eaton B-Line out of Troy, Illinois. “In what they implement while here, and also what they leave us with.”

Last summer, a student intern at Eaton B-Line, which manufactures and supports wiring components, helped institute a program to separate outgoing waste. The program has allowed the company to reclaim oils that it can reuse rather than pay to have them disposed of.

“Interns also leave us with a tremendous amount of improvement ideas that we can implement over time,” Meyer said. “They have helped reduce our carbon footprint and put us in a better position to be a better partner with both our environment and our community.”

Dvorak estimated that the UNL P3 program saves each participating business about $90,000 per year.

“The standard deviation on that number is huge,” Dvorak said. “About one-third to one-half of the recommendations that are implemented don’t have a measurable positive payback. But there are other indirect benefits, beyond cost, that motivate the company to implement changes.”

Dvorak also notes that interns often provide more cost savings to businesses than studies have been able to show. When quantifying the impact of intern recommendations, he typically considers only those recommendations implemented in the first year or two after interns leave.

“We know it’s not uncommon for businesses to implement changes three or four or five years later,” he said. “So in many cases intern recommendations continue to pay off years after the intern’s time at that organization ends.”

In the case of the company that continued to implement changes 15 years after an intern’s departure, Reese said, “I think that facility is happy with their investment in that student.”

For further suggestions and information about internship programs, contact your regional pollution prevention center via the Pollution Prevention Resource Exchange (P2Rx).

P2 Intern Programs Help Businesses Reduce Waste and Save Money

Thursday, September 24th, 2015 by

P2ResultsforCongress_April 2015Although many businesses and organizations want to become more sustainable, they often lack the time and the money to implement specific projects.  This is where P2/E2 intern programs can help. The programs place engineering students at companies and organizations to conduct focused research on specific pollution prevention and energy efficiency projects.

The programs are win-win for organizations and students. Interns have the opportunity to evaluate and potentially implement pollution prevention and energy efficiency solutions in a real-world setting, while companies realize significant savings by implementing the intern’s recommendations.

Within U.S. EPA Region 5, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and the Minnesota Technical Assistance Program both have long-running, successful intern programs.

Illinois EPA

Each year, Illinois EPA’s Office of Pollution Prevention recruits upper-level university students to work on both pollution prevention (P2) and energy efficiency (E2) projects during the summer.  The purpose of the program is to help facilities identify, research and pilot P2 technologies and practices. In the area of E2, companies can realize overhead cost savings due to increased energy efficiency while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The interns provide technical assistance at a relatively modest cost and bring a fresh perspective to the organization. In 2011 and 2012, the program helped facilities save over $1.9 million in reduced operating and disposal costs.

While students have been placed primarily at manufacturing facilities, they have also worked at small business development centers, trade associations, local government facilities, environmental groups and military installations. Each student selected for the program is required to attend an initial P2 training program in Springfield. The student spends the remainder of the 12-week summer session working as a temporary full-time employee at the sponsoring facility. Students typically have backgrounds in engineering or environmental management.

Each intern student selected for the program is required to attend a one-week training class, which covers topics like: net zero waste; energy efficiency (lighting, boilers, HVAC, motors/VFDs and air compressor systems); water conservation; process mapping; and renewable energy. Once on the job, the intern must adhere to a work schedule; follow company policies and regulations; work with management and staff; and prepare bi-weekly progress reports.

To participate in the program, host facilities must provide a well defined project(s), student supervision, work space, safety training, employee cooperation and workers’ compensation. Depending on program funding availability, the facility may also be responsible for paying a portion of or the entire student salary, which averages approximately $2,700 a month for a 12 week period (one week of training and 11 weeks in the field).

Illinois EPA recruits qualified students, trains interns on pollution prevention techniques, matches interns with host facilities, establishes contracts with interns, reviews progress reports, and provides technical support.

Project technical summaries for completed internships are available at http://www.epa.illinois.gov/topics/pollution-prevention/p2-internship/projects/index.

For more information on the IEPA Intern Program, contact Richard Reese.

MnTAP

Each summer, MnTAP recruits and hires junior and senior college students who have strong technical backgrounds and leadership abilities to work on waste and energy reduction projects at companies in Minnesota. Typically, six projects are funded each year in locations around the state. Each year’s projects are different; they address different challenges within a number of different industries. Therefore, project specifics vary year-to-year.

Students who participate in the program are expected to:

  • Attend a full-day orientation and training on the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus.
  • Determine how waste is currently produced and energy is used in company processes. Gather data from reviewing reports and running tests.
  • Identify what other companies are doing in regards to the project. Contact vendors about best available technologies. Research and evaluate options for reducing waste and/or energy use.
  • Work with the company’s management and employees to determine feasibility of different waste and/or energy reduction options. Develop a cost comparison between the use of existing procedures and new ones.
  • Write a final report and present project results.

Interns work on site at the company facilities under the supervision of the company and MnTAP staff. Positions are full-time for three months, starting at the conclusion of spring semester or quarter. Interns are paid $13.00 per hour during the 500 hours of summer employment. They are also  awarded a $1,000 stipend at the completion of their project. The stipend is contingent upon the completion of project deliverables such as a final report, presentations, and other duties as requested by MnTAP and the company. Cumulatively, pay equals approximately $15.00 per hour when averaged over the three months of the project.

To qualify for the intern program, companies must be located in Minnesota; interested in reducing industrial waste; willing to make operational or procedural improvements to accomplish a waste reduction or energy efficiency goal; and be able to develop a project idea that applies to other Minnesota businesses. Companies are asked to provide an on-site supervisor as an in-kind contribution and contribute 10% of the total project cost ($3,000) to help support the intern program. These funds are used to offset project costs such as student compensation.

Project technical summaries for completed internships are available at http://www.mntap.umn.edu/intern/pastproj.htm.

For more information on the MnTAP intern program, contact Linda Maleitzke.

Related Resources

Pollution prevention internships find lost value, launch new careers

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012 by

Marie Steinwachs, Director of the Missouri Environmental Assistance Center (EAC), wrote an article for the P2 Pathways Column for GreenBiz on how P2 internship programs that match student needs for experience and companies sustainability efforts have collectively saved businesses billions.

Read article: http://www.greenbiz.com/blog/2012/11/13/pollution-prevention-internships

Here is the link to the P2 Pathways landing page: http://www.greenbiz.com/business/engage/enterprise-blogs/p2-pathways.

Pollution Prevention Internship Programs

Sunday, June 22nd, 2008 by

Check out the new U.S. EPA web page listing information on pollution prevention (P2) internship programs throughout the country. Internships allow college students the chance to gain valuable career experience. Internship programs listed include those at government agencies, non-profits, universities and even businesses (such as Greenmaker Building Supply in Chicago, IL).

Thanks to Beth Anderson of U.S. EPA for sharing the link to this page. She noted that the information on the page was compiled by an intern named Lauren, appropriately enough, so thanks to Lauren too!