By: John Beaudoin

When Glen Watson of Polytainers and other local companies are in the hunt for talented, young students and future employees, they know they’re in a target-rich environment right here in Lee’s Summit. Watson, the Human Resources Business Partner for the 300-employee, Lee’s Summit Polytainers, Inc., said between the local college scene and the Economic Development Council, the company’s workforce needs are in good hands.

“We’ve worked with the EDC on events, specifically National Manufacturing Day, where high school students come in and see job opportunities,” Watson said. “Other times throughout the year, we partner with the Lee’s Summit School District on tours and spending time at the facility to get exposure about the company and opportunities, on-the-job training and careers they can pursue right out of high school.”

Polytainers offers both internships and fresh out of high school opportunities, Watson said. “We have great opportunities here to learn on the job, earn a great wage and support their families also,” he said. Watson noted interns from the
University of Central Missouri’s Lee’s Summit campus have spent time at the company. More recently, Polytainers is welcoming an intern from the Summit Technology Academy this summer in their IT department.

“Even if they don’t get a job with Polytainers, they have a good experience and talk to others about their experience in that work environment,” he said. Polytainers is just one of many Lee’s Summit and KC-area businesses that have been the benefactors of an intern-rich environment brewing at UCM and the Missouri Innovation Campus.

According to Janice Phelan, marketing and communications for UCM and the MIC, UCM has hundreds and possibly close to 1,000 students serving in internships annually within Lee’s Summit and Kansas City in areas such as  business, nursing, education, technology, marketing.

“Internships provide students and employers an invaluable experience,” said Dr. Laurel Hogue, University of Central Missouri vice provost for Extended Studies.  “Students gain the opportunity to apply the knowledge they learn in the classroom to a work environment. Employers are able to leverage their brand and proprietary knowledge with potential future employees. Both get to determine fit and culture, potentially saving companies both time and resources related to hiring and employee retention.”

Some of the local companies working with MIC interns are Ultrax Aerospace, AWNIX, the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District, JSC Engineers, ACT/NRCCUA, GEHA, Lead Bank and the St. Luke’s Health Systems. Phelan said there are 100 MIC interns in the program (counting those just starting in the cohort) working in businesses around Kansas City.

“The Missouri Innovation Campus Program internship was designed specifically to help eliminate the skills gap by providing a paid, three-year, year-round applied learning experience that helps reduce the cost of a college degree and keep talent in the Kansas City region,” said Stan Elliott, director of the Missouri Innovation Campus for UCM.

Hogue said there are more than 55 business partners participating in the MIC program, not including employers who work with students in STA courses or offer semester or year-long opportunities to students in degree fields such as IT, healthcare, education and business. “Lee’s Summit R-7 and UCM collaborated from concept through construction and now are continually creating seamless educational pathways for students to reduce the overall cost of college and time to degree. Couple that with internship opportunities, and we close the skills gap,” she said.

Watson said the educational system built in Lee’s Summit has been advantageous to Polytainers. “Being in the Lee’s Summit community and having these local opportunities has been beneficial for us,” Watson said. “We try to partner on all different levels with internships. We have to grow people within the organization, invest in people.”