Summer in the Land interns call it a wrap in Cleveland. Some already say they'll be back
“Cleveland invests in people.”
So believes Connor Hensley, currently finishing an internship at Cleveland manufacturing company Parker Hannifin. Hensley, an incoming senior studying mechanical engineering at Ohio State University, points to a region-wide economic rebound that includes business investment as well as growing pockets of activity for people his age.
“There’s manufacturing, engineering, insurance and a diverse service economy here,” said Hensley, a North Ridgeville native. “Cleveland is a dark horse in how it isn’t mentioned as a top place to live. In general, there’s a higher potential that Cleveland has that other cities do not have or are not using.”
Hensley was among 100-plus interns and apprentices at Pins Mechanical Co. & 16-Bit Bar + Arcade in Ohio City for the third and final Summer In The Land event. The August 9 get-together was hosted by Greater Cleveland Partnership, or GCP, in coordination with Cleveland Talent Alliance, a consortium of 11 nonprofit and private sector organizations intent on keeping skilled workers in the region.
Nearly 1,000 interns have attended the trio of Summer In The Land parties since June, according to GCP. Participants hailed from 155 colleges, 360 companies, 34 states and nine countries. Even as the revelers at Pins Mechanical said goodbye to summer, attendees including Hensley said they are planning a return to Northeast Ohio after graduation.
Hensley, also a former intern with Cleveland fluid system producer Swagelok, sees opportunities here for personal and professional growth. Parker Hannifin has a development program that rotates entry-level employees through offices in California and Texas. Either state would likely be a temporary stop for Hensley, who lauds a Northeast Ohio revival that he believes has gone largely unnoticed.
“People I talk to in engineering have leadership development opportunities in Cleveland out of college,” Hensley said. “The resurgence here is real.”
Career advancement is on the mind of Kera Stroski from Westlake, a third-year chemical engineering major at Ohio State. Stroski spent her summer at Lubrizol Corporation, shadowing plant operations at the Wickliffe specialty chemical manufacturer and studying the company’s cutting-edge chemistries that include additives for engine oils and other transportation-related fluids.
Stroski also met Lubrizol president and CEO Rebecca Liebert, part of a shift for women in corporate leadership, who now run more than 10% of Fortune 500 companies in the U.S. for the first time in history.
“Women in engineering leadership positions are rare, so meeting her showed I can work my way up,”Stroski said. “Lubrizol has a very welcoming environment.”
Stroski appreciates Cleveland’s proximity to Lake Erie, along with Mayor Justin Bibb’s young administration now leading the city’s charge into the future.
“Seeing someone like myself represented in a position of power makes it more relatable,” said Stroski.
NEO as a twenty-something community
Summer In The Land is about connecting interns to the region and to each other - an intentional crossover for a city in need of a talent infusion, said GCP president and CEO Baiju Shah.
“As they’re experiencing us as a place to work, they’re also learning about our region as a place to live,” said Shah. “That’s critical, because so many young people decide on where to work based on where they’d like to live. They have power in a tight labor market to take their talent into any geography they want to be in.” Shah quote 2:25
Shah views Summer In The Land as potential text-chain fodder for interns and their friends, who may then consider Cleveland when it’s time to start their careers. Students from the region can spread the word on campus as well, creating a pipeline of eager young workers willing to give Cleveland a shot.
A chance is all that Shah is asking for. The GCP head met an intern from Texas who worked at Amherst-based industrial coating producer Nordson over the summer. Though the young woman had never been to Cleveland, she thoroughly enjoyed experiencing the region, said Shah.
Although there is no guarantee this story will end with the student in Cleveland, it’s critical for local leaders to reach the approximately 4,000-5,000 interns that pass through Northeast Ohio annually, said Shah.
Despite boasting more than 60 colleges and universities, the region from Cleveland to Akron does not do enough to market itself toward students, Shah said.
“We don’t think of ourselves as a twenty-something community,” Shah said. “A big part of that is changing our mindset through data and communicating that to those audiences.
We have to recognize that we’re in an enviable position where we have the assets, amenities and jobs. And we have to be better at sharing that with everyone.”
A potential for success
Jonathan Hubbard saw Cleveland up close as an equity and inclusion intern at GCP. Hubbard, an incoming senior at Ohio State majoring in philosophy, politics and economics, said he had an “amazing time” witnessing first-hand the investments taking place in and around downtown.
2023 also marked Hubbard’s second summer with the economic development organization.
“Seeing our city trending upwards was a big reason for me to come back, because I love the work that GCP is doing,” Hubbard said. “I learned about Cleveland, what projects we’re working on, and how to make the city better. What we can do to uplift everyone in our region.”
Collaborating and socializing with 21 fellow GCP interns offered insight into various professional sectors including law. The Bedford native looks forward to exploring this landscape further should he become a practicing attorney post-graduation.
Hubbard is also doing his part to sell Cleveland and Northeast Ohio to out-of-town friends, he said.
“It’s a great place to live,” Hubbard said. “Come visit, and I think you’ll find what you’re looking for.”
Greater Cleveland Partnership president and CEO Baiju Shah echoes this sentiment, adding that Cleveland is always ready to welcome talented new residents.
“This is a town where you can get engaged civically on whatever cause or purpose motivates you,” said Shah.
“You’re embraced by the community writ large to be involved as a volunteer or board member. We are a great community where you can live to your fullest potential professionally and personally.”