Zekelman Interns Gain Career-Launching Skills — and Connections
Internships aren’t just resume padders — they’re launchpads for meaningful careers. At Zekelman Industries, we empower our interns to tackle projects that matter, gain industry skills, and build relationships that last far beyond summer.
Hands-On Learning and Mentorship
So, how do we create valuable experiences for our interns? For one, Zekelman interns don’t just copy and collate; they collaborate and create.
Each summer, new Zekelman interns are assigned a hiring manager and a mentor from their designated departments, which include information technology, engineering, quality control, finance, production planning, human resources, sales, and more.
Fredrick Levins describes his former Zekelman manager, Robot Programmer Tyson Walter, as “an amazing supervisor who often took on a mentor role to offer me invaluable lessons, demonstrations, and support.”
“He would go out of his way to allow me to get firsthand experience operating and jogging robots, developing scripts, operating power tools, involving me in business meetings and calls, and creating side projects for me to work on,” says Levins, who completed his internship at Wheatland/Western Tube in Rochelle, Illinois, in summer 2023.
During his internship, Levins was involved in the development of robotic cells. He gained firsthand experience applying new techniques and skills — from manual power tool handling and operation to using in-depth schematics through tools like AutoCAD and SolidWorks. “Seeing an open space become a fully functional and automated system was extremely valuable and eye-opening, offering me a better, well-rounded understanding of the robotic installation process,” he says.
Walter also introduced Levins to Zekelman contractors and other teammates (some of whom started as interns), helping him network and feel comfortable in the workplace, he says. “Everyone I met was extremely fun, caring, and excited to interact.”
Along with guiding interns through daily tasks, hiring managers assign each intern a project to work on throughout the summer. This gives each intern a chance to apply their growing knowledge and use their skill sets, culminating with a final presentation to Zekelman Chairman and CEO Barry Zekelman.
Maria Shusharina, former operations intern at Atlas Tube in Chicago, was initially nervous about working on a project that involved hydraulics — an area she had no prior knowledge of.
“I was given an assignment that involved working with large amounts of data, where it was important to notice even the slightest trends and try to analyze them to see if there were places we could improve our performance and efficiency,” Shusharina says. “The manufacturing process is complex, and if you want to find a comprehensive solution quickly, it is essential to work with people from different departments.”
With guidance from colleagues and applied problem-solving, the project turned out to be “a great experience,” she says. “Our team learned many aspects of the system that hadn’t come up before but played an important role. We were able to work on the solution that could potentially improve the productivity of the whole process.”
Getting hands-on experience was also a bright spot for environmental intern Anthony Kulchar. For his project at Wheatland Tube, he was given the responsibility to monitor and operate a Zekelman water treatment facility. “I had the opportunity to do meaningful work and experience the industrial manufacturing process firsthand,” Kulchar says, recalling how his supervisor and hiring manager helped him develop his skills and knowledge throughout the summer.
“Working in an industrial environment and seeing how problems arise and how they are solved firsthand has given me knowledge that I can take to future opportunities,” Kulchar says. “It has allowed me to grow my independent critical thinking skills that will further help in coursework and future employment.”
Summer is the perfect time to take learning on the road. Zekelman invites all interns to participate in company-sponsored field trips and events to grow their understanding of the domestic manufacturing industry.
During Levins’ internship in industrial robotics and programmable logic controller engineering, he visited five Zekelman facilities to learn about production processes, automation, machine operation, and other facets of manufacturing. “Seeing a large variety of systems also allowed me to observe common and recurring errors to further understand how to perfect installation and implementation, as well as recognize common mistakes made to improve my own actions in the future,” Levins recalls. “Every location and event I visited or attended allowed me to increase my personal network and skills, improve my understanding of various process controls, and observe various forms of automation.”
James Talby and his fellow sales interns at Atlas Tube in Plymouth, Michigan, kicked off the summer with a trip to Chicago, where they got a “detailed and invigorating introduction to the steel industry and Atlas Tube’s place in it,” says Talby, who called the trip the highlight of his time at Zekelman. “The tours of U.S. Steel in Gary, Indiana, and of our customers in the area were most memorable.”
Thanks to those experiences, Zekelman interns end the summer with many newly developed skills, as well as industry knowledge. “I learned a lot about the steel industry that I didn’t know,” says another summer sales intern, Aidan Hunter. “But once I learned more about it, it was really interesting. That taught me to keep an open mind and always be willing to learn about new industries, businesses, and opportunities that come up in the future.”
Hunter says he also improved his social skills by attending meetings and interacting with new people daily, while Talby honed his foresight to better serve customers. “My aspect of the sales project required this ability to think ahead and supply resources and tools to the customer base that they did not foresee needing,” Talby says. “I learned that a key competitive edge in the sales industry is to have great foresight and to satisfy customer needs before the customer even realizes that they have those needs.”
As for Kulchar, he credits his Zekelman internship for growing his knowledge in industrial processes, such as water treatment and galvanizing — along with his critical thinking skills. And Shusharina developed valuable skills in areas including “problem-solving, commercial awareness, active listening, data analysis, and teamwork across the departments,” she says.
“I was given assignments that were challenging enough for me to grow professionally,” Shusharina explains. “I could always get help from my colleagues if I needed it. I was given an opportunity to work independently, so I could improve my problem-solving skills. These factors gave me the experience where I could learn and grow.”
As Shusharina sums it all up, the greatest benefits of an internship at Zekelman are the opportunities to learn on the job and the strong company culture. “Workflow is highly collaborative, and the climate in the office is friendly, supportive, and productive,” she says. “I think this is a perfect match for a successful outcome.”
Zekelman invests in our interns the same way we invest in our long-time teammates. And word gets around: “The company really cares for its employees, and interns are treated just like one of the team — no matter how long you are there for,” Hunter says.
What are you doing next summer?
It’s no surprise so many Zekelman interns return as permanent Zekelman teammates. Whether you’re interested in a summer internship or a long-term career in manufacturing, learn how you can take your career to the next level with an internship at Zekelman. Apply now for our 2024 internship program.