You had an intern (or co-op student)….now what?

Right now, 40 graduating ergonomists from Fanshawe college are completing their internships at a variety of workplaces. (This was the 5th cohort – last year 32  graduated.) Many of the interns are starting projects or programs that will require maintenance. What happens after the internship is completed?

Some workplaces may want to hire the intern to run the ergonomics program on a full-time basis. Most will not need full-time support but would like to maintain the momentum that was generated during the internship. What is best for the graduate, and for your program? The graduates generally want full time work, of course. They also want mentorship, since it helps them to achieve their full certification a year earlier. You want low cost support to keep the program moving along. We can help.

We’ve been mentoring interns since the Fanshawe program launched in 2016/17, and before that, we supervised and mentored dozens of co-op students, including many of those who later came on-board as ergonomists. In our experience:

  • Mentorship adds a level of sophistication to an ergo program that clients appreciate. Even if your goals are very modest (e.g. complete PDAs for all jobs, or screen all jobs for MSD hazards), ergonomists make mistakes, and if their work is not critically reviewed by an experienced ergonomist, those innocent mistakes can come back to bite you. For example, a new ergonomist might set up a PDA template that reports “occasional” lifting for one job that involves transferring a half-dozen 10 kg boxes, three times per shift. A few weeks later, another PDA might report “occasional” lifting for a job that requires lifting a 10 kg box, once every 3 minutes, all day long. Are both of these “occasional”? Our ergonomists follow very detailed guidelines when completing PDAs, so they are all reporting consistently.
  • Having an ergonomist on-site leads to an increased demand for ergonomics expertise, generally of escalating complexity. For example, this week someone might ask, “How could we improve this lifting condition?” A novice ergonomist could suggest a lift table, or a packaging change, or a layout change that would reduce the reach. Next week, that same someone might come back asking for help in comparing a variety of vendor products – do we need a spring-loaded table or a hydraulic table? Does it need to turn? Will the existing pallet mover be compatible? These are questions that an experienced ergonomist can address easily; a new ergonomist may learn at the company’s expense.

Similarly, clients with regular ergonomics support tend to pose more difficult questions: what height should we install this line? Can this medically restricted worker do this job? Experience makes these questions easier (and faster) to answer; a mentor can help the new ergonomist to learn the ropes.

  • Asking a new ergonomist to provide employee ergo training or awareness materials can be inefficient, stressful for the new ergonomist, and possibly contentious. The way ergonomists learn in school is very different from how we should teach about ergonomics in the workplace. Creating an ergo puzzle, or developing a posting for an ergo bulletin board can take days or weeks, and often results in content that is too technical to engage the target audience. Our new ergonomists contribute to these initiatives on Taylor’d Ergo time, supported by guidance, templates and feedback. A nice, gentle way to learn!

When facilitating employee ergo training, new ergonomists may respond to questions from participants in a way that inadvertently leads to labour-management issues; for example, an ergonomist might cite a specific weight as a “safe limit”, unaware that there are items handled in the facility that greatly exceed this limit, or may espouse an informal opinion about job rotation, sit/stand tables, or any number of “hot topics”. We prepare our new ergonomists to avoid landmines, hornets’ nests, and cans of worms, so you don’t have to. 😊

If you have built some momentum using an ergo intern or student, consider carrying on with your ergo program, under our mentorship. If you don’t need a full-time ergonomist, let us hire your intern when they graduate, and we’ll provide a service package that meets your needs and theirs….2 days per week at your site. We will:

  • provide the training and guidance that the new ergonomist needs, at your facility and ours
  • provide report templates and quality control for their reports
  • round out their training, filling any gaps between the skills they developed during school and their internships, and the skills you need now (PDAs, heat stress, training, driver ergo, office ergo, demands-abilities evaluation, best practices, etc.)
  • offer our expertise to support projects that are a little out of reach for a new ergonomist, until the new ergo is ready to manage them independently
  • bring in awareness materials and training so the new ergonomist can look like a star
  • find other work for the new ergonomist when they are not at your site, so they can learn, grow and develop into a well-rounded professional.
  • help you to bring in new interns in the future, so you continue to benefit from the free support available through Fanshawe’s program.

The program, called “On-Site Ergo +”, starts in July or August, to maintain continuity of service for you, and employment for the graduating ergonomists. We intend to hire the brightest and best! Help us to grow while meeting your needs and theirs. Call Carrie. Quick. Before they’re gone.

Didn’t get an intern this year? Launch your OSE+ program this year with one of our new ergonomists, and we’ll help you to secure an intern to boost the program next year!

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