This is part of the Ready NWI and First Job series — an initiative of the Youth Employment Council of the Northwest Indiana Workforce Board. The series will review the story behind some of Region leaders’ and residents’ first jobs.
Aco Sikorski is president of the Valparaiso Campus Ivy Tech Community College Northwest and serves on the Youth Employment Council of the Northwest Indiana Workforce Board.
What was your first job?
I grew up in Macedonia and had an unpaid summer internship for several years as a technical draftsman in an engineering design office. I worked 32 to 40 hours a week. It was a terrific experience as I eventually earned my undergraduate degree in electrical engineering.
Do you remember your co-workers?
Yes. Many of them were my classmates along with one full-time employee. It was a great working environment. Projects were getting done because people enjoyed working together.
What did you like about the internship?
Observing and working in a real industrial setting made me realize the value of the classroom experience and learning the theory and fundamentals of engineering. Honestly, after the summer’s internships, I was looking forward to go back to learn more, especially in the technical courses.
What did you not like about the internship?
Getting up early. I loved to stay up late at night. Sleeping in was not an option.
Did the internship experience allow you to discover what your true skills?
Yes. I loved being part of a team. I remember a project that we, as a team, worked on and completed before its deadline. The department manager recognized us for our efforts.
Why do you believe it is important for young people to hold a job?
There are several reasons young people should have the opportunity to work. It teaches students responsibility. It helps them understand the importance of training and learning skills. It offers the opportunity to work as part of a team.
Is your Valparaiso campus currently a partner with firms regarding internships?
Yes we are. Our industrial technology program works with ArcelorMittal. The Steelworker for the Future program offers qualified students the opportunity to work at the steel mill during the summer.
If companies are considering interns for their business, what would be the essential elements that would create a meaningful internship?
A well-defined work plan is essential. The internship should be goal-oriented. The intern’s job responsibilities should support learning objectives. In other words, students should be engaged in workplace activities related to their program of studies.