This summer, Thern Inc. celebrated 75 years of providing quality custom manufacturing to Southern Minnesota. As a staple within the Winona community, Thern has established a strong reputation, not only in the production of reliable winches and cranes but also in its team-oriented company culture.
“I’ve worked at other manufacturing companies, but Thern cares the most,” said Michelle Hermann, Thern’s HR Generalist. That’s why when the company is looking to expand, Thern looks to its community, bringing in local engineering students for hands-on internships that provide industry-based learning opportunities with the chance to contribute ideas of their own.
“We strive to have good relationships with the colleges in town and with the students, it’s our way to support the community,” Hermann said. “The other side is that Thern likes to have new people come in and give us fresh perspectives. When someone like Cameron comes to us from college, she’s learning different techniques than what we did 15 years ago. So, she can come in and provide her suggestions and her ideas, and even implement new processes and products.”
Trusted to succeed
Cameron Larson is studying biomedical engineering at the Milwaukee School of Engineering, but she stayed with her grandparents in Winona this summer to attend her internship at Thern.
Having found the opportunity through the SciTech Internship Program, Larson was able to connect one-on-one with Thern’s hiring managers, and soon secured a position that would help her explore alternative industries in engineering.
Once there, Larson jumped right in, gaining exposure through the wide variety of projects and disciplines that Thern had to offer; everything from working on a 100,000 lbs. winch to creating a Return Goods Analysis that she presented to Thern’s President.
Her ideas and solutions were always encouraged. While working on a drive issue, Larson recalled her mentor Dave, an electrical engineer, “spent some time diagnosing the problem, he then asked me to assist and we were able to figure out the issue in about 10 minutes together. From there, he had me to set up not only the drive but also the PLC. I really appreciated that. It was cool to have my feedback listened to instead of just watching everything.”
Having also contributed to client-facing designs, push buttons, limit switches and relays, Larson’s favorite task over the summer was getting to apply what she’d learned while testing a motor. The engineer she collaborated with, “trusted me enough to bring me into the shop and let me work on it. When I hooked the motor up to test it, he didn’t check my wiring, so that was a really big confidence booster. That was my favorite moment,” Larson said proudly.
Experiences to build on
Wherever a student is in their academic journey, Thern looks for ways to support their intern’s growth through company immersion and applied learning.
“Our biggest goal is for our interns to give them real-life experiences in the field that they’re going to school for,” Hermann said. “Sometimes we’ll make full-time job offers to our interns, but even if that’s not the case, we always want to provide them with experience.”
With another year of school before she graduates, Larson is taking her Thern experience with her, returning to Milwaukie with the fresh perspective she went looking for.
“In my biomed program, about half of it is electrical engineering, it’s just on a much smaller scale. So, for me, this was eye-opening to see the industrial side of it,” said Larson. “We have a senior design project coming up, and I’m hoping I can pull from some of these experiences for that.”
Startups and small companies looking to hire interns and access state grants, can sign up and start posting their jobs.