“Projects have never been lacking at Voyager, there’s always work to be done,” said Trevor Balbach, an Engineering Manager at Voyager Industries. Located in Brandon, Minnesota, this small aluminum fabrication company has its hand full manufacturing proprietary products for the Yetti Fish Houses, Bear Track Trailers, Titan Deck and Voyager Dock brands.
With the addition of a new manufacturing plant in Pine River to help keep up with production, this spring and summer seemed like the perfect time to bring on a new mechanical engineering/drafting intern.
Since 2015, Voyager has hired several students though the SciTech Internship Program, a free, state-funded resource that makes finding and paying interns easier for small business owners. On top of the wage reimbursement they receive (up to $2,500 per student), the team at Voyager looks to these opportunities as a reliable way to strengthen their workforce.
“One of the benefits of an internship is it gives us a chance to train, and it gives them a chance to learn about the industry,” said Voyager’s HR Manager Naomi Sands. As a result, “we’ve had great success with long term employment.”
An arsenal of experience
This year, Voyager found more than they could ask for in Jared Stine, who after working in the manufacturing industry for 8 years as a welder, machinist, and fabricator decided to enroll in the Mechanical Drafting, Design, & Engineering program at Alexandria Technical and Community College.
“Jared’s experience with welding was a plus,” said Balbach. “I’ve never production-welded, but he’s come from the real world of meeting customer demands and meeting run times. He was able to contribute to the team right away.”
Stine’s industry experience provided him with a unique perspective and a strong foundation for his growth at Voyager. “Having that manufacturing background, I was able to see the end product in my head before completing it. Just having that mental visualization really helps,” Stine said. “Most companies are looking to increase speed, numbers and accuracy. Once you’ve been involved in building something, you know where you can save a little time and what makes things easier when designing fixtures.”
Looking to be challenged
Since starting in March, Stine has helped manufacture at least three different fixtures, fine-tuned a few design projects, and worked closely with one of Voyager’s robotic welders. When assessing a mount fixture, Stine came up with a new design that enabled the robot to weld four mounts at a time instead of one, significantly increasing the machine’s efficiency.
Finding clever ways to fix and improve things, Stine said, “is one of my favorite things about working here. It’s why I wanted to go back to school, I was looking for that challenge. I like being able to use my problem-solving skills and any time I can better a part or make it easier for the guys on the floor who are building that stuff. Coming from that background, it’s fun knowing that you’re helping them out too.”