July 26, 2023 3 WSU Tri-Cities students land full-time positions through cooperative work
By Lacey Desserault
After completing internships for the duration of the 2022-2023 academic year, three Washington State University Tri-Cities students accepted full-time job offers with Washington River Protection Solutions (WRPS), the tank operations contractor for the Department of Energy’s Hanford Site. This was the first graduating class of the cooperative work experience (co-op program) after a donation was made to WSU Tri-Cities in 2022 to establish a partnership with WRPS. The internships require a one-to-two-year commitment from the students and allow them to gain diverse and relevant experience in their fields of study. This establishes a deeper connection between academics and industry, securing the future workforce in the Tri-Cities region.
“The most valuable part of the internship was being hands on with other engineers and craft workers to solve problems to get projects completed,” said Brent Nelson, who is now an electrical engineer with WRPS. “Networking and building a relationship with people before I was hired full time was very beneficial. Getting to know what is expected of you as an engineer was also a huge part of the experience.” Nelson was a transfer student from Columbia Basin College to WSU Pullman, then transferred again to WSU Tri-Cities as a junior to study electrical engineering.
In August of 2022, WRPS made a $250,000 donation to establish the co-op program for students to grow and develop through professional opportunities. Since then, the program has continued to support students by providing paid long-term internships while remaining local to the Tri-Cities. The program accommodates students online, in-person, or hybrid, and seeks to reflect the overall demographics of WSU Tri-Cities’ student population. Students from a range of majors can apply for the program, including computer science, engineering, and environmental science. From May to August, students are expected to work full-time during their internship, and will decrease to part-time during the school year to accommodate class schedules. Managers or mentors guide the student in day-to-day activities at WRPS, while preparing them with the skills they will need to become full-time employees.
Timmary Staigle, WRPS Intern Coordinator, said “The development of co-op interns is closely monitored by WRPS and the WSU Tri-Cities Career Center to ensure sufficient progress is being made, both academically and professionally so a positive outcome is achieved. The work at Hanford is important and will be around for decades to come, providing a secure career path for WSU Tri-Cities graduates in many different fields of study. Besides this, internships help students build their resumes and gain a competitive edge in the job market.”
Staigle worked closely alongside John Navarro, WSU Tri-Cities Career Center Coordinator, to provide other avenues of support and mentorship to the students in addition to their internship managers and mentors.
The cooperative work experience partnerships between WSU Tri-Cities and various local organizations help ensure that students are prepared with applicable skills for the workplace and play an important role in student success after graduation. Students are able to learn from mentors at WSU Tri-Cities and local organizations, creating a well-rounded experience.
For more information about WSU Tri-Cities co-op programs, contact Laura Sanchez, director of student affairs at email@example.com.