Local companies, PSU partner on new workforce initiative program  


Two of Pittsburg’s largest companies are partnering with Pittsburg State University on a new workforce initiative program that will give students workplace experience while in school, along with wages and a scholarship, and will help the companies grow their workforce. 

“We’ve always done a version of an internship program here at CDL, but one of our objectives was to get something more formal in place,” said Stacy Butcher, business development and national sales account manager for CDL’s fabrication division, and a 2002 graduate of PSU. 

“We wanted to do our part to ensure grads coming out of Pitt State are workforce ready in the trade field in terms of professional skills. Workplace skills,” he said. “Ideally, they’ll graduate and be able to step right in and hit the ground running.” 

CDL began in 1964 as S&S Electric, which provided electrical services for residents and businesses around Pittsburg. Now one of the area’s fastest growing companies, its staff has expanded from 65 to more than 460 in the last three years; they work in six offices across the Midwest. CDL operates in more than 35 states and serves more than 40,000 customers. 

“A couple years ago when I was running our sign division, we had seasonal positions, and we had students come interview, and I realized we need to help get them truly job ready,” Butcher said. “I had a conversation with owner Larry Seward about what we could do.” 

The answer: paid internships each semester, with a $1,500 scholarship awarded for students who meet criteria put in place by participating companies.  

CDL plans to bring in 10 students to intern in marketing, sign and graphics, human resources, and engineering divisions that serve Class 1 and short line railroads. 

“We’re hoping they could intern with us the entire time they are in college, and then walk into a full-time job,” Butcher said. 

Miller’s Professional Imaging also will take part in the program. As the largest professional lab organization in the U.S., Miller’s provides prints, wall art, books, albums, and stationary products for professional photographers and consumers in all 50 states and Canada. 

HR Director Dan Rank, who graduated from PSU in 2014, said Miller’s would like to start with 20 students and continue to increase each year. They each will be eligible for a $2,500 scholarship. 

“These students will be working with various production teams, learning on-the-job experience and understanding workflow procedures,” he said. 

The program will give students valuable on-the-job experience, Rank said, and will help Miller’s with seasonal help during the surge in business they experience during the fourth quarter. 

“In addition, we hope to find qualified candidates to join our team after graduating and help us continue to grow,” he said. 

The program will be overseen by PSU’s Office of University Strategic Initiatives, which is headquartered downtown in Block22 and has helped foster relationships between students and the business community to the betterment of both, said Wes Streeter, deputy strategic officer. 

Streeter, along with Executive Director of Operations Mary Louise Widmar, will direct the application and interview process.  

Students will have the option to repeat the internship if they wish.

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