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Hungry for Engineering Talent? MECOP Feeds the Talent Pool

By Jessica Gomez, CEO

When you have a microfabrication company, the equipment and materials that you can dedicate to customer projects is important, but it is the depth of your engineering talent that is critical. That puts recruitment at the top of our priority list, and it is why Rogue Valley Microdevices has participated in MECOP, an engineering-specific internship program founded on close industry-university collaboration.

MECOP (Multiple Engineering Cooperative Program) was founded in 1978 by major Oregon companies such as Tektronix and The Boeing Company in conjunction with Oregon State University’s Department of Industrial Engineering. Two years after its conception, MECOP accepted seven students into the program. The growth since that time has been phenomenal, with more than 650 engineering students placed in internships in 2018.

In addition to OSU College of Engineering, MECOP now places students from Portland State University, Oregon Institute of Technology and the University of Portland with technology companies.

A tight market for chemical engineers

According to a recent US Congressional Research Service Report, “The U.S. Science and Engineering Workforce: Recent, Current, and Projected Employment, Wages and Unemployment,” there were only 31,990 chemical engineers employed in 2016. Compare that to 183,770 electrical engineers and 285,790 mechanical engineers employed during the same year, and you can see why Rogue Valley Microdevices – which relies heavily on chemical engineers – needs to get creative when recruiting. Fortunately, MECOP provided an internship program that could not have been better matched to our needs.

What makes a MECOP intern?

For the past seven years, we have welcomed MECOP interns to our company. Today we have three former MECOP interns on our engineering team, including Engineering Manager Katherine Tadehara.

When I asked Katherine to describe MECOP interns, she said that they are “ambitious, self-starting engineers who are flexible about different locations and different industries.” While earning her degree in chemical engineering, Katherine told me that MEOCP taught her how to apply skills in a real-world environment, and that the best aspect of her MECOP experience was learning how to interact with a wide variety of people. Had she stayed in an academic lab, she would have worked solely with other undergrads, graduate students and professors. “MECOP showed me what working in industry was really like,” said Katherine. “I also appreciated learning about different industries and getting paid for it because I was putting myself through school.”

While Katherine did not intern at Rogue Valley Microdevices, she did hire two other MECOP graduates for our engineering group. Like Katherine, they are highly capable, well-educated chemical engineers who help to define our company.

MECOP Executive Director Gary P. Petersen offered a broader snapshot of his organization, explaining that MECOP students, once accepted, participate in two paid six-month internships at two different companies during their MECOP tenure. “MECOP interns apply the theory learned in school to real-world experiences,” said Gary. “Our network of 149 member-companies gives them real and challenging projects, which helps to train the next generation of engineers who will contribute to their local economy. With applicable experience under their belt, MECOP graduates tend to field multiple job offers and earn higher starting salaries. It’s a mutually beneficial program for everyone involved.”

While the quest for good engineering talent will always be a challenge for employers, by partnering with MECOP, we will continue to have access to the best possible water in a well that will never run dry.

For more information about MECOP, please visit: https://www.mecopinc.org/