Goodwill University Graduates Get Hands-On Experience Through Tech Internship

“I’ve learned a lot through this process, gained some very good skills that I can leverage and continue my career,” said Justin Surgeon, 2020 Goodwill University graduate.

Justin is one of four Goodwill University advanced IT graduates selected to intern with Polypore International, a leading global high technology company. The 9-month pilot program, in partnership with Apparo, provided hands-on experience for Goodwill University graduates.

“This internship has literally probably changed the trajectory of my life,” Justin explained. “To get in the position that I’m working in right now, as a SharePoint Administrator, I would have had to do a lot more to even be considered for this position.”

Apparo, a local nonprofit, that provides tech and business solutions to other nonprofits, helped with the development of this internship program.

“We can be a solution to a problem that your company might be having in regard to your talent pipeline,” said Kristen Reed, Corporate Engagement Manager for Apparo.

With the help of Apparo, Polypore was introduced to Goodwill. First, the tech company viewed presentations from some of Goodwill University’s graduates, and after seeing what students were learning in class, they decided to take on paid interns, something Polypore Chief Information Officer Detlef Dohmen called an out-of-the-box approach to recruiting talent.

“I see a lot of big companies moving to Charlotte and there is a shortage of IT talent and we had to look outside the box, not just do what we normally do,” Detlef said. “We really wanted to use another avenue that really helped out. It was a great fit at that point with the relationship with Apparo.”

The internship not only provided real-world experience and pay, but it also provided mentorship and guidance. Brian Trotter, Director of Global Projects at Polypore International served as Justin’s mentor through this process.

“He’s just been a great resource for anything that I need, honestly,” Justin exclaimed when speaking about his relationship with Brian. “We’ve had countless conversations. I’ll ask him, what can I do to help the company beyond SharePoint.”

The two of them met weekly and Brian was impressed with the skillset Justin has shown him. He said Goodwill University graduates are, “highly skilled and highly motivated. They work great, they work with everybody very well.”

Although this was an internship, Justin and other Goodwill University graduates weren’t given any special treatment. They were treated like all other employees at Polypore International.

Justin shared, “We get the same emails, all of that stuff. I actually just came back from a team trip in Michigan.”

Justin worked as a freelance artist prior to this internship, but he’s always had an interest in IT.

“I was kind of a natural when it came to computer stuff and things of that nature,” Justin said. “But I never really thought about having a career in IT.”

Thanks to courses taken through Goodwill University, Goodwill’s job training division, and the internship experience with Polypore International, Justin is now working as a Business Execution Consultant – SharePoint Administrator at Wells Fargo.

“I realized throughout the process, that it’s not really about a degree or a certification,” Justin said. “They just want to know if you can do the work. And Goodwill prepared me to be here where I am today.”

The experience was also positive for Polypore International. The tech company will take on a second cohort of interns, this time for a 12-month internship.

If you or someone you know is interested in IT training courses through Goodwill, click here.

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