PlastiCert is a Lewiston-based small business with approximately 30 employees. It was also recently named one of the top injection molding shops in the US.  Since 2015, PlastiCert has partnered with SciTech and Winona State’s Composite Materials Engineering program to regularly bring in Composite Materials Engineering interns. In this way, PlastiCert has established a steady incoming workforce of young talent while the students they hire gain valuable industry experience.

“When we bring interns in, we have them run every press and every piece of equipment here, so they know what we do and how we do it,” explained Ben Ninas, PlastiCert’s Sr. VP of Engineering and Business Development. “Once they have that knowledge, then they’re able to make better recommendations on higher level items.”

It’s the little things that count
When reviewing candidates, Ninas doesn’t look at their GPAs because, he says, he knows every candidate that comes through Winona State’s engineering program will already be smart enough and capable enough. The key factors he’s looking for are professionalism, good communication and attention to detail.

“When someone takes the time to do something correctly, it makes an impact,” Ninas said. Composite Materials Engineering major Cullen Patterson proved that the had those characteristics during his interview and got the job.

Patterson’s internship began with the standard training on all of PlastiCert’s machines. He then moved on to a client project: pulling samples from a variety of parts from 2013 to 2017, reviewing them, confirming that they met the criteria and then creating packaging instructions for each one.

“It was fun to inspect the parts, see if they’re good and then figure out the most efficient way to package them and get them to the customers,” Patterson said.

Getting the chance to collaborate with PlastiCert’s shipping manager during this project, Patterson added, helped him further develop his problem solving and communication skills.

Letting their strength shine through
Reflecting on PlastiCert’s internships over the years, Ninas attributes their success to a straight-forward and trusting model. With the base knowledge their candidates are bringing to the table, the rest, he said, is simple. “Have a plan, work with them upfront, give them a good base so they understand what you do, and then let go. When you work with them enough, you’ll see what their strengths are and use them. It benefits us tremendously.”

For Patterson, having a real-world opportunity to apply what he’s learned in school made his internship a good one.

“I’ve enjoyed learning about injection molding because, we’ve talked about it in our classes and we’ve learned some basics but actually being here and helping with the process while asking the engineers my questions, I’ve really enjoyed that side of it.”