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Work in Tandem with Big Companies to Get Students Career Ready

To give his business students instant value to employers, Dr. Craig Seidelson created a manufacturing internship and Six Sigma certification program.

Educator

Craig Seidelson, PhD

Assistant Professor of Operations and Supply Chain Management, University of Indianapolis in Indiana

PhD in Engineering, MBA, BS in Business and Engineering

During a 20-year career in China, Craig Seidelson, PhD, worked his way up from process engineer to engineering manager to chief manufacturing engineer. “Most of my time in China involved setting up manufacturing systems. A lot of that work involved collaborating with Chinese associates on engineering, quality, and operations,” he says.

He also taught an online, graduate level course called Manufacturing in China, which sparked a realization: His real passion was teaching. “When the opportunity came along to teach operations and supply chain management full-time at the University of Indianapolis, I took the plunge and changed careers.”

Seidelson’s experience has taught him the best way to learn business is by doing it. He wasted no time integrating semester-long applied business internships into his courses: Students solve real-world business problems for their clients. Beyond that, they present their findings to external examiners as part of Six Sigma Yellow and Green Belt certifications.

Below, he shares tips on integrating class work, internships, and industry certifications.

Challenge

Business students want a competitive edge

From his time in the private sector, Seidelson knew that businesses value experience and are looking for students who have gone beyond coursework and classroom simulations. That puts business majors who have never actually worked in their primary areas of study at a disadvantage.

Innovation

Build a course around an internship and certification

To give students an edge and help them put theory into practice, Seidelson sets up semester-long applied business projects with local companies. Student teams spend specified hours at these partner facilities and go through specific steps (outlined below) to create their final projects, which their industry partners sign off on. The real differentiator: Students also present their final projects to an external examiner for Six Sigma certification.

Context

“Certification is important because it tells employers students have worked on real projects and their outcomes meet industry-recognized standards in areas of lean manufacturing, statistical analysis, project management, and quality control.”

— Craig Seidelson, PhD

Courses: SCM 485 Business Logistics and Materials Management, SCM 488 Operations and Lean Systems, SCM 405 Quality Management

Course descriptions: Concepts, strategies, and practices related to demand management, procurement, operations, quality control, inventory control, transportation management, warehousing, packaging, and material handling.

See resources shared by Craig Seidelson, PhD

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Lesson: Merging a manufacturing internship with Six Sigma certification

On the first day of class, Seidelson provides students with an overview of his approach: Student teams will work all semester on their projects, with weekly two-hour stints “on the floor” at the client company. They will elect project managers, create project charters, and maintain project plans. Industry partners will provide a mentor for each project, sign off on project plans, and participate in grading of final presentations.

Seidelson shares some of the strategies that ensure the project is beneficial for everyone involved.

Find the right company for the job

Seidelson develops partnerships with local companies, including Caterpillar Remanufacturing (in the company’s Operations Management area) and Merchandise Warehouse (in Logistics Management). The partners have real business problems, a need for student help, and mentors willing to provide guidance. The ideal partner is:

  • Local. Companies need to be within a half hour’s drive from campus so that transport can be handled with minimal difficulty.
  • Flexible. The hours that students can work (and travel) must sync up with times that mentors are available. It helps if lab time can be assigned to class schedules.
  • Enthusiastic. Ideally, you are working with the same companies each semester. They get better at scoping projects and supporting students. The best mentors for students pursuing Green Belts are Black Belt certified.

Before the semester begins, Seidelson meets with the partners and mentors to scope out projects and adjust his course content as needed. Everything hinges on project scope. It needs to be challenging and quantitative, yet narrow enough to be completed in a semester.

Get the teams up and running

During the first week of the class, students divide themselves into teams of six to nine students. Choosing their own members gives them some autonomy and helps ensure that they can coordinate transportation and personal schedules.

Seidelson then selects one project leader for each team, because it is more efficient to have only one student communicating with the client. Finally, student teams make their way to see the facility and meet their mentors (giving points for attendance helps). Mentors present project scope and work out schedules with their student teams. They also introduce important “rules of the road,” such as proper workplace conduct, safety regulations, dress code, and other protocols.

Prep students with targeted simulations

Seidelson integrates project content into in-class simulation exercises. For example, student teams are typically asked to implement Kanban scheduling systems for their clients, so Seidelson creates various Kanban exercises for students to solve in class. During debriefing, students can see how simulations apply to their projects.

Turn the final project into an event

At the end of the semester, all client company mentors and the outside Six Sigma certification consultants attend final student presentations, scheduled for an evening at a university lecture hall. The students dress in business attire, which adds to the air of formality and helps them understand how to comport themselves at a company presentation. To further mimic the work world, their PowerPoint presentations must follow the format of a McKinsey & Company consulting report.

Grading breakdown

The client gives 70% of the final presentation grade. The external consultants contribute 15%, with the remainder coming from the professor. If the client indicates that any individual students slacked off, those students are docked 20% off their final grade.

Outcomes

Each student who passes the course and pays the $200 certification processing fee (a steep discount, given the $1,000 to $3,000 this certification typically costs) will receive their Six Sigma Green Belt certification.

“Years from now when students look back on their college careers, few will remember me or most of what I taught in the classroom,” Seidelson says. “Nearly everyone will remember their work experiences earning a Green Belt.”

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