by Robert Gardner
Students in the Office Administration program at Montgomery County Community College have been gaining valuable experience through a partnership with Whitpain Township. They, along with students from Wissahickon High School, have played a vital role in the massive scanning project undertaken by the Township. The internship grew out of the Township’s Fall 2012 planning committee meeting; the scanning project began shortly thereafter with the help of the College’s students.
For the Township, the purpose of the project is twofold. First, scanning the documents—which date back to 1929—reduces the amount of required physical storage space. Second, and perhaps more importantly, the documents have become more accessible for Township business and public meetings.
For the students, the internship offers a look into the day-to-day workings of an office environment. They learn what it takes to maintain an efficient operation, such as effective communication and completing tasks.
Terri Sullivan, Instructor and Coordinator of the Office Administration program, helps the students get started. She turns student information, including a resume, over to Whitpain and it then becomes the students’ responsibility to follow through.
“We want [the students]to treat it as a job,” she said, adding “they’re truly thrilled with the experience they’ve gained.”
The interns complete biweekly time sheets, which are scanned and uploaded to the Blackboard Course Delivery System. They also write a weekly journal on Blackboard, in which they detail their activities. The students create an “e-portfolio” based upon their internship, as well as additional course and work experiences. This, according to Sullivan, serves to bolster their hireability to potential employers.
Once the internship begins, Karen Dolga supervises the students. As the Whitpain Township Engineering Department Administrative Assistant, she signs off on all timesheets. She also completes two performance evaluations throughout the semester, which, according to Dolga, has been easy.
“Thanks to their hard work, information that had been boxed up and in storage is now readily accessible for anyone that needs it,” she said. “It’s been a great bunch of students sent over [from the college]. They’re eager, willing to learn.”
So eager, in fact, that it has lead to a more permanent role for former intern Wendy Kauffmann. She started on the scanning project as part of a team of interns in January 2012. Though her internship ended in May, she has remained with the Township in the Code Enforcement Department.
“My experience has opened my eyes to what it’s like to work in an office environment,” she said. “I am learning how a code enforcement office operates.”
“All of the folks at Whitpain have accepted [Montgomery County Community College students] wholeheartedly,” Sullivan said. “They welcomed Wendy with open arms.”
“I am enjoying my experience thus far,” Kauffmann confirmed.
Recent graduates and summer interns Kasandra “Kasey” Flannigan and Greg Monte have remained with the Township. Monte, like Kauffmann, became an employee while Flannigan has extended her internship through the end of the year. She hopes to land a full-time position in 2013. Psychology major Jessica Mendoza wanted to work on her English language skills while learning how an office operates. She started with Whitpain on Aug. 31 for the fall 2012 semester.
“We welcome more students as time goes on,” said Dolga. With a targeted completion in 2016, the scanning project will put the Township in a unique position among local communities. “We can all be proud that Whitpain Township is more advanced and moving in the right direction.”
While the interns have gained knowledge, Whitpain Township has gained by what it will ultimately reduce. Namely: costs. Thanks to the scanning project, the money saved will begin to add up—from decreased paper, postage and printing costs to increased productivity. Township offices can operate more efficiently, with less time consumed searching for documents. Workers in the field can access the information on mobile devices rather than having to leave a site, drive to the Township complex, and locate paperwork.
For more information on the scanning project, click here (See “Scanning the Past, Moving to the Future,” page 3).
Currently, Whitpain Township does not pay student interns. As the effects of the scanning project trickle down and funds become available, paid internships could be possible. In the meantime, any student who is interested in and internship with Whitpain Township is encouraged to contact Sullivan at 215-461-1145 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sullivan and Dolga—interviewed separately—both said of the partnership between Montgomery County Community College and Whitpain Township, “It’s a win-win situation.”