Field-based internships encourage students to consider a career in the industry

Clean Harbors interns get hands-on experience in the field

Pursuing a dual degree in mathematics and actuarial science, Elizabeth Dayton assumed her major would take her to an office. She pictured herself spending most of her days at a desk, sitting behind a computer, happily immersed in numbers.

But her internship with Clean Harbors this summer at the field services facility in Clackamas, Oregon, just outside her hometown of Portland, changed all that.

“It wasn’t a field I had ever seen myself in before,” she said of working in the industry. “I ended up falling in love with it.”

The sophomore at Long Island University was one of 13 college students working in the field at Clean Harbors sites across the United States and in Edmonton as part of a new, field-based internship program launched this year. Interns got hands-on experience, up close with equipment and processes and a real sense of how degrees in subjects like mathematics and mechanical engineering could be applied to help carry out the crucial work Clean Harbors does.

“The field-based internship program pilot was a huge success,” said Tim Therrien, senior manager of talent acquisition. “The feedback from our interns was incredible. The internship provided them with an opportunity to see an industry that they didn’t really know existed. And for the business, interns brought new energy and enthusiasm to help support current initiatives.”

Some interns, recently graduated, are pursuing longer placements in the field. Deep Patel, who studied mechanical engineering at the University of Texas - Arlington, is currently working at the Fallon, Nevada, re-refinery and touts the hands-on training he receives. His internship concludes in December.

 “Being in the plant, you can learn much more than being in an office,” he said. “You’re given the responsibilities directly and everyone wants to teach you. Everyone is very helpful here.”

Like Patel, interns enjoyed applying what they learned in the classroom in places they may never have considered – incinerators, recycling facilities, refineries and more. Dayton, who is quite accustomed to a fast-paced schedule as a student-athlete on the women’s soccer team at Long Island University, quickly adjusted to the varied and fast-paced environment. She spent time in the field visiting different facilities across Tacoma and Seattle, as well as in the office helping with transportation compliance. She found connecting her academic studies to field-based work infused meaning into what she was doing.

“Being from Portland, caring about the environment has always been important to me. Being part of a company that actively does it (was great),” she said.

In addition to Patel and Dayton, field interns this summer included: Alexander Plowucha (State University of New York Maritime College - mechanical engineering); Jackson Underwood, (Washington State University – biochemistry); Kenneth Banks (University of Akron - chemical engineering); Christopher Hogan (Texas A&M - mechanical engineering); Taryn Laschinger (Fort Lewis College – biochemistry); Jake Reader (Fort Lewis College - mechanical engineering); Trent Rutledge (University of Wyoming - mechanical engineering); Amanda Ratliff  (University of Dayton - environmental biology); Zachary Jenkins (Wichita State University - mechanical engineering); Jenna Roblee (Louisiana Tech University - architectural studies).

“Many of these interns want to come back and work for us full time when they graduate,” Therrien said. “For 2020, I am extremely excited for us to expand this program to all locations.”

Interested in interning for Clean Harbors? Check out some of our opportunities here.