Believe it or not, summer is the time where many students are preparing for graduation. How can a student who is on summer vacation prepare for graduation?
It’s simple: Internships! Internships are the best way for students to get real world experience that will prepare them for a career in their major.
So how does NASPO fit in the picture?
NASPO partners with 8 academic institutions and their Supply Chain Management Programs to bring the value of public procurement to college students. With each partnership, NASPO supports an internship program where states can apply for funding to host a student either in their office or virtually for the summer. Selected states interview, hire, and manage their summer intern with the support of NASPO. NASPO’s internship program strengthens the relationship with our academic partners and leads us closer to our goal of promoting public procurement as a profession.
Meet Courtney Palkowski, a senior at Michigan State University majoring in Supply Chain Management. Courtney has been a student member with NASPO since October 2020 and has been highly involved with NASPO in numerous ways. Last year, she participated in the internship program, and I asked her a few questions to share her experience.
Q: What was your internship role and responsibilities?
A: For the summer of 2020, I had the honor to intern with the State of Michigan’s Central Procurement Services through the Michigan State Experiential Learning Project. After my first internship was rescinded due to COVID-19, I was not only very lucky to find another opportunity, but that I found a way to help during the pandemic. I was asked to aid in the impact of COVID-19 on the state’s budget by finding ways to reduce spend on information technology and commodities contracts. Over seven weeks, I was able to accomplish this by conducting research in the public and private sector on State of Michigan’s Oracle America, Cisco Systems, and Staples contracts. Through this research, I was able to provide recommendations for obtainable savings and price concessions that were leveraged during the negotiation process. I utilized various state contract databases and research from the NASPO website, as well as working with public procurement professionals throughout the United States.
Q: As you completed your internship during a pandemic, how do you feel your contributions have impacted the State of Michigan and procurement as a whole?
A: My research led to recommendations that helped the State of Michigan avoid a 4% increase for a total over $200,000 in soft savings with Oracle and confirmation that the State of Michigan had excellent pricing for its Staples contract. Though these are price savings on only two contracts for a state that has hundreds of contracts, I feel that in a time where budgets were tight due to Covid-19, that my research and recommendations made a difference that helped the state during Covid-19.
Along with the concrete work, I hope that my internship had an impact on public procurement to show what a student is capable of and how states can benefit from having interns. My internship experience showed that it is in fact possible to have virtual internships that are tremendously beneficial to both the State running the internship and the student. You don’t have to be in-person to have an incredible experience.
Q: How has the internship helped you get to this point in your academic career?
A: This internship could not have come at a better time and gave me a fantastic boost going into my junior year. Not only did I now have work experience that I could draw from for my classes, but I had experience in the procurement field, which helped me tremendously when I began my supply chain major classes. I could read the textbook or listen to a lecture and say, “Hey that’s what I worked on, that’s exactly what I did.” It became incredibly useful knowledge to draw from during my business law and introduction to procurement classes. I did so well in my procurement class I was selected to represent MSU in a supply chain case competition. I am proud to say my experience and knowledge I gained from this internship has helped get me to where I am academically today.
Q: Why is completing an internship so important and how has it prepared you for graduation?
A: Having internship experience is so important to a young professional because it allows you to utilize the skills you learned in the classroom, but also allows you to learn, grow, and discover what you are looking for in a full-time position. Prior to this internship, I had no experience in public procurement, let alone even knew about it. Throughout this internship I learned all about public procurement, how government contracts are managed, and opportunities for the public and private sector to work together. I would have never thought of it as a potential future career path for me, but the experience was even better than I could have ever imagined.
This internship has helped prepare me for graduation in helping show me areas of supply chain I would like to go into, my strengths and weakness, if I could see myself as a public procurement professional as a full-time career (that is a yes), and planning to further my education so that I can meet the requirements and expectations should I want to work towards a higher level position within public procurement or procurement in general. It has also showed me what kind of culture and company I want to be a part of since the whole State of Michigan procurement team is so kind and supportive of one another.
Q: Is there anything else you would like us to know about your experience?
A: I would like to thank Simon Baldwin, Steve Rigg, Sharon Walenga-Maynard, and Jared Ambrosier for allowing me the opportunity to intern with the Central Procurement Services and their constant support during this internship experience. I would also like to thank the State of NASPO and Michigan State University for their contributions in making this internship a reality.
Clearly, the internship program is a key academic initiative for NASPO because it brings awareness to the public sector and introduces students to topics, they may not have previous knowledge about. Students get to take a hands-on learning approach and are provided the guidance and expertise to accomplish specialized projects. These internships are an avenue for networking, mentorship, and professional growth- all critical components to developing a college student. Similarly, the state receives many benefits, too! As public procurement taps into many elements of supply chain, we want our states to get the best of the best.
If you are asking yourself “How do I get started?” or “Where would I even begin?” we have all the answers for you right here in our Internship Toolkit. If you have any questions or want to know more, reach out to Academic Affairs Manager, Brandi Willard, at BAWillard@naspo.org.