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Plymouth Technology gives back with internships







Plymouth Technology specializes in helping industrial manufacturers clean up their water – otherwise known as water treatment. They work with clients in a variety of industries – companies that build cars, washing machines, jet engines, even those that drill for oil and…process tomatoes?
 
"I love using this example!" laughs Amanda Christides, president of Plymouth Technology Inc. She breaks it down into simple terms: "Heinz 57 gets tons of dirty tomatoes in from farms" – they've got dirt and worms and bird poop and whatever else – "The tomatoes get the water really dirty and they can't put that water back into the lake because it would kill all the fish. We use chemicals to clean that water," she says. Their work is in compliance with the Clean Water Act which governs water pollution. Plymouth Technology provides chemicals and chemical engineering applications advice to manufacturing operations. "We help protect the environment and this natural resource."
 
The Rochester Hills-based company was started in 1991 by Christides's father Geary Parke. They have grown by design and are operate in 28 states. In 2005 her father passed away, and in 2006 she was able to purchase the company from her father's estate. She has been "captain of the ship" since then and has grown the company significantly under her leadership, even successfully weathering the manufacturing storm just a few short years ago.
 
Christides is a huge proponent of developing young talent through internship programs, and in 2007 launched an internship program at Plymouth Technology. She found the experience incredibly valuable to herself when she landed a high-profile, highly-coveted internship at a prestigious law firm in D.C. "It was perfect because I figured out that I did not want to be a lawyer!"
 
She came to work for her dad in 1994, who was adamant about treating her like a regular employee, and found that she loved it. For her, the internship program is a way for those still in college to find out if the field they've chosen is the right one for them and get real world work experience. "Some learn they hate what they're going to school for. Some love it. Some find out they want to do something a little different. And all of that is good."
 
As a driven, enthusiastic young person herself (at the age of 40, she's still a young person in the industry, to say nothing of when she first started out nearly 20 years ago, or when she bought the company barely into her thirties), Christides sees the value that young people bring to a business organization: new ideas, fresh concepts, the most up-to-date industry education, unbridled enthusiasm. But she also knows that they don't always have an outlet for these attributes, and are often overlooked by upper management. "I view the internship program as way of giving back to the community and helping people have the same great experience I had," she says. "Young people have really great ideas but don't necessarily [have the outlet for them], so there's a business purpose in it too."
 
The program started in 2007 with just a few interns. In 2009, when the manufacturing sky was falling, Plymouth Technology received funding from the MEDC for a summer internship. The company used this as its opportunity to bring the whole internship program together. For a company that employees 35 people, they nearly double their staff annually by bringing in 18-24 interns every year, all college juniors and seniors, both paid and unpaid.
 
Plymouth Technology partners with educational institutions for their internship program. For Human Resources interns, they work with Oakland University. For chemical lab and R&D internships, they work with Wayne State and University of Michigan primarily. For sales and marketing interns, they work with OU, U-M and U-M Flint, and Baker College. "Our goal is to give these students real work experience," Christides says. "They are given ongoing and individual projects."
 
Each tract involves one capital project as well as day-to-day work for which the interns are partnered with a mentor. The students then have a huge leg up in the job market, and 99% of their interns who seek permanent employment find it within 90 days of completing their internship at PT. The company itself has even hired a few of them on full-time.
 
Christides loves hearing about how her former interns are doing, and many keep in touch by sending wedding invitations, photos, and letters. It's obvious that an internship at Plymouth Technology is much more than the typical manufacturing internship; even after just a few short months, close bonds are formed. 

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