Aeroflex Colorado Springs relies on Inroads for fresh talent
EE and IT majors can apply as interns after
sophomore and junior years. They get personal attention and contribute new ideas and fresh perspectives
Aeroflex is extending its reach across the solar system. NASA's Curiosity rover is exploring Mars thanks to Aeroflex technology, and Aeroflex parts went into space on the Mars Pathfinder and original Mars rovers. The company's products are in the works of the Cassini Solstice Mission space probe in orbit around Saturn and are helping the Hubble Space Telescope photograph the universe. Practically every satellite orbiting today includes Aeroflex technology.
On Earth, Inroads interns have helped design those products for twenty years. "We need to bring new employees on board constantly," says Bob Lee, human resources director. "We rely on Inroads to help us do that."
Aeroflex has 365 employees in Colorado Springs. It may not be a tech giant, but its Inroads students learn about companies that don't have big advertising budgets but offer exciting jobs.
"Their interest may be piqued and they can get exposure through Inroads," says Donna Cotton, Inroads Rocky Mountain regional director. "These companies may not be on their radar, but they can have a career and a rewarding experience there."
Internships are open to EE and IT majors after sophomore and junior year. By that time, they've completed some technical courses. They work on circuit design projects, support projects in design and production, and work in quality control. Interns get personal attention and are valued for the significant contributions they make.
"Whatever they are working on contributes to the success of these space projects," Lee says.
Aeroflex makes microelectronic and test and measurement products for communications systems, networks and automated test systems. The company attributes its success in the semiconductor market to its space-qualified and radiation-hardened products, capable of functioning in the harsh environment of space. Its products also serve the defense and broadband communications markets.
The Colorado Springs division of Aeroflex was founded in 1980 as United Technologies Microelectronic Center, and was a business unit of United Technologies Corporation (Hartford, CT). The unit was acquired by Aeroflex in 1999. Other Aeroflex business units are located in the U.S., Europe and Asia.
Aeroflex Colorado Springs first partnered with Inroads in 1993 to select and support student interns. Inroads' diversity focus was a big factor.
Inroads recruits and vets the students and recommends them to Aeroflex. During their yearlong internships, Inroads provides advisors, coaching and tutoring, and students get leadership training and advice in business dress and etiquette. The Inroads program also provides access to executives at participating companies. Interns are required to maintain a 3.0 GPA.
Aeroflex Colorado Springs' president has served on the board of directors for Inroads/Southern Colorado. Lee has served on the board as both a member and chairman. Aeroflex is one of 200 Inroads partners that employ nearly 1,800 interns annually.
"Inroads develops programs that provide a lot of leadership training, and community programs that students don't get just from going to college or working an internship," says Lee.
"Aeroflex makes sure that interns are not only great employees with cool jobs, but are also well rounded in their development as professionals," says Cotton. "We are committed to providing the life skills that will carry young people to success in all areas of their lives."
From the company's point of view, Inroads interns are strong candidates for its future workforce. Aeroflex hires two to four interns each year. Most come through Colorado colleges and universities, although applicants are welcome from around the country. Colorado School of Mines, Colorado State University and the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs are the most frequent sources of interns.
"These young people are incredible in what they can do and produce for us," Lee says. "Sometimes it's difficult to keep them challenged and busy."
The goal is to help them develop and find their career paths, preferably at Aeroflex. One African American intern earned his BSEE in four years while playing football for the Colorado School of Mines. He now works as a circuit design engineer in the Aeroflex Standard Products group.
Lee is happy to help those who find that their interests lead them in other directions, though. One IT intern got interested in software development and went on to a career at IBM's Boulder facility. Lee still connects with him at Inroads events.
"Although his career aspirations didn't align with a job here, he did great work for us as an intern and went on to a successful career," Lee says. "I consider that a success as well."
Aeroflex is increasing its commitment to early career hiring by attending college careers fairs, reaching out to minority organizations and to deans and faculty members at schools of engineering.
"Inroads is an excellent program for a company our size," Lee notes. "We can connect with these young people and are in a good position to bring them on board."