Lyles College of Engineering’s Valley Industry Partnership for Cooperative Education program is working to match student interns with manufacturing and technology companies from around the Central Valley.

Matthew Rocca, Lyles College 2016 alumnus and mechanical engineer at Pressed Juicery in Dinuba, California, dedicated his first six months to Graphic Packaging International (formerly International Paper) and BW Integrated Systems (formerly Thiele Technologies). He said participating in the VIP Program was one of the best decisions he’s made for his career.

“I was fortunate enough to be selected for internships with companies at opposite ends of the spectrum for mechanical engineers,” said Rocca. “International Paper, LLC was a fast project management and process engineering oriented internship – a great introduction to day-to-day life working in a fast-paced manufacturing facility. Thiele Technologies, on the other hand, was strictly design. These two distinct experiences allowed me to choose a direction for the rest of my career. Contrary to my initial thought that a design position would be my ideal path, I left certain that I was much more passionate about being in a manufacturing environment.”

The goals of the partnership are to provide students with valuable internship and real-world experiences prior to graduation, help meet area employment needs in high-demand and high-skill areas and retain talent in the region. There are 26 companies in the program, eight of which have joined since 2017.

Because of its growth, support of students and the strong industry participation and engagement, the partnership is a finalist in the Talent category for the University Economic Development Association’s 2018 Awards of Excellence. The Talent category considers lifelong learning, both degree and non-degree programs, experiential education, discovery-based learning programs and making sure what’s being taught is relevant to industry needs.

Programs are judged on replicability, scalability, sustainability, impact and originality. Awardees will be announced Tuesday, Oct. 23, during UEDA’s Annual Summit in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

“We’re incredibly humbled to be a finalist, but we couldn’t do it without our dedicated students and supportive industry partners,” said Dr. Brissa Quiroz, director of VIP and a lecturer in the Lyles College Civil Engineering Department. “These relationships are overall beneficial for everyone. The students are trained and mentored by professionals in the industry. They are also empowered with opportunities to design and build projects while the companies benefit from dedicated students professionalism and producing college students prepared to enter the industry workforce that understand technological challenges.”

Fresno State students in their junior or senior years majoring in civil, computer, electrical and mechanical engineering as well as construction management, industrial technology and computer science can apply to the VIP program. To be considered, students must meet all program eligibility requirements and must agree to participate in two, six-month, full-time internships with two different companies. Students receive $17 an hour for their first internship and $19 an hour for the second.

Student applications are carefully reviewed and vetted. Once the top applicants are selected, they participate in an intensive interview by company representatives. In fall of 2018, 57 students applied to the program, but only 35 were placed.

“It’s a rigorous application process and it’s becoming more competitive for interns and companies alike,” Quiroz says. “But, we believe that as more companies join the program, there will be more opportunity for students to get hands-on experience and explore career options.  Therefore, developing a stronger collaboration between academia and industry partners, we continue to build a solid pipeline that will contribute to the economic growth of the region.”

For more information, contact Rebecca Wass at or 559.385.1336.
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