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Engineers Share Four Surprising Lessons Learned from Internships

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lessons learned during engineering internships at Domtar

The path from college to a full-time career is not always a straight line. Students who work as interns can get an early jump on their careers by gaining relevant on-the-job experience while still in school. They can also apply real-world insights and lessons learned when they return to class, helping them excel in their programs.

Domtar offers college internships and co-op placements at its pulp and paper mills, as well as corporate offices in Fort Mill and Montréal, with a particular focus on engineers of all disciplines. Students are fully integrated into operations, working directly with management, and they are assigned mentors to maximize their learning experience. Domtar internships and the many lessons learned are steps toward a fulfilling engineering career at Domtar or elsewhere.

“Our internship and co-op program offer benefits for everyone involved,” says Kelley Crouch, an engineering services manager who has supervised interns throughout her 22-year career at Domtar. “Interns and co-ops add bench strength to our operations, bring new technology and ideas, and let the mill participate in the education of our future workforce.”

Crouch, who worked as a Domtar intern in 1997, recognizes how valuable these lessons learned can be. “Gaining exposure on projects and processes in the mill prepares students to assume productive roles upon graduation,” she says.

We spoke to a few current and former interns about lessons learned during their experiences at Domtar, and four themes emerged.

Click on the photos below to learn more about each of the featured interns.

1) Interns don’t need a background in paper science to intern at Domtar.

I hadn’t taken any paper or pulp classes at school, so I didn’t know what to expect. I gained a greater technical knowledge of pulp mills, from the chemical processes to the thermodynamics that drive it. — Kaitlyn

I have learned a lot from the mechanical engineers at the mill. Pulp and paper is a great place to begin. I had learned about process design in school, but seeing it all put together gives me a different perspective. — Erik

I was surprised by how many engineers there were at Domtar — they are all throughout the mill, not just in one department. Basically, it’s all about problem solving, which is needed everywhere. — Braden

2) Pulp and paper mills are safe, clean and operate with sustainability in mind.

As a chemical engineer, one of the coolest things I learned is how efficient the mill is at reusing chemicals. We reuse about 90 percent of our chemicals, and part of my job was to look for ways to make this process even better. — Kaitlyn

What drove me to accept an offer full time with the Plymouth Mill was the focus on safety. Starting on my first day as an intern, I heard the same message over and over: “Be safe and don’t hesitate to ask for help.” It didn’t take me long to realize that these were not just nice-sounding words. — Sanders

3) Lessons learned during an internship can’t be found in a textbook.

Getting first-hand experience with working with contractors and making sure jobs/projects are done safely and on time has already helped me prepare for my career. — Erik

In every position I have been in, I have helped solve real industry problems. The collaborative work environment, career development opportunities and being able to work on meaningful projects are some of the reasons I love working for Domtar. — Lindsey

4) The people you work with make all the difference.

Everyone employed here is helpful and full of knowledge. If you have a question about the mill, someone, somewhere knows the answer. — Braden

The people who work for Domtar make it such a welcoming environment, where everyone is willing to provide you with assistance when you need it. — Sanders

Is an Internship Right for You?

The engineers and engineering interns we interviewed agree that among the engineering lessons learned are two common truths:

  1. Completing an internship at a pulp and paper mill can help engineering students discover whether they like working in a manufacturing environment.
  2. Even if Domtar isn’t where they choose to spend their career, engineering students gain lifelong skills and valuable insights while working with us.

“Students who get the most out of their internships are the ones who are committed to their own growth,” says Crouch.

Visit to learn about available internships. If you’re a student attending one of the college career fairs that we’re participating in this fall, stop by and visit us. We’d love to meet you.