Engineering student turns summer internship into part-time job

Mitch Engleka

After completing an internship with Southco — a manufacturing company that serves the transportation, electronics and hardware industries — Brandywine engineering major Mitch Engleka continues to work part time at the firm while completing his degree. 

Credit: Michael McDade

MEDIA, Pa. — When Mitch Engleka decided to change his major, it seemed like a pretty simple switch — just from one type of engineering to another.

“I used to be a mechanical engineering student at University Park,” said Engleka, “but I switched into the engineering degree at Brandywine last year.”

However, the Brandywine senior quickly found that the change in curriculum was a major benefit after starting an internship with Southco — a manufacturing company that serves the transportation, electronics and hardware industries.

Brandywine’s engineering degree offers a firm grounding in engineering fundamentals, embraces multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary education, and integrates component solutions into a systems perspective.

Engleka found out about the internship opportunity through a tour of Southco he took during the 2016-17 school year. The tour was coordinated in partnership with Penn State. He submitted his résumé to Southco that same day and was called in for an interview shortly after. In summer 2017, he returned to Southco — this time as an intern.

“I interned as an engineer in their assembly department,” he said. “Southco makes handles and latches for things like car glove boxes and other access points, so I worked with the machines and people who put the final latch assemblies together.”

“Internships give engineering students the opportunity to apply the theory they’re learning in class to actual, real-world engineering work,” said Sally Sue Richmond, senior lecturer in information science at Penn State Great Valley. “Students who have completed an internship definitely have an edge when seeking employment after graduation.”

Based on his understanding of internships, Engleka expected to be placed in a minor role within the company and learn mainly through observation. Instead, he found himself placed right in the center of company activities. He met with sales employees, participated in meetings about long-term company decisions, performed rate analysis on manufactured goods, fixed broken machines and even gained design experience. 

“As an intern, I was expecting to sit on the sidelines at certain times but I was actively working on real, impactful projects,” he said. “It was a level of trust and autonomy I didn’t really expect.”

Although his internship has ended, Engleka continues to work part time with Southco while he finishes his engineering degree.

“I would not have been as prepared for my role at Southco if I had stayed in the mechanical engineering program,” he said. “The specific, hands-on experiences I gained from the engineering design classes really helped me hone the varied sets of skills I needed to perform.”