From GB to GP: UW-Green Bay Students Turn Internship into Gainful Employment
Heading into her internship with Georgia-Pacific, Madelyn Skalecki hoped it wouldn’t be just a ‘go-fer’ coffee and bagels position. She, and intern Elizabeth Johnson got their wish.
For 12 months Skalecki was credited with an internship, but worked as a full-time employee, getting to know the company, its supply chain practices, and what each step of the supply-chain process would cost the company. The December 2019 graduate began working at Georgia-Pacific as an employee of the company’s supply chain division immediately following graduation.
For students from UW-Green Bay and managers at Georgia-Pacific, the program is a win-win. Students are able to put what they learn into practice, and managers at the company are able to recruit and retain key talent. It’s the high-impact, problem-solving approach for which the University and the Cofrin School of Business is known.
“I would be doing something in the office, and I’d think to myself ‘I remember learning this in a book,’” Skalecki said. “And then after I was finished with the internship, I’d be sitting in class during a lecture learning about something and think ‘Oh my gosh! I did this!’”
Skalecki said her past internship experiences were more like busy work. But this experience was different.
“The previous intern’s project was to create a timeline of what our team, Supply Chain Outsourcing, did on a day-to-day basis,” she said. “My project was to take the previous intern’s project and develop a time and cost analysis for it, which had not been done prior. This transformed how my team understood the impact of their day-to-day work and educated the other cross-functional teams we worked with on a daily basis. The project also provided a value-added comparative advantage for us as we are now able to test scenarios that can be more cost and time efficient.”
Skalecki’s manager, Jason Danforth, said the internship program is a way for Georgia- Pacific to create a hiring pool that the company already knows is worth the investment.
“I think the program allows our company to create a pipeline for future talent,” he said. “We look at it as a six-month interview.”
The competitive internship and co-op experiences are utilized throughout the company.
“It is definitely competitive regardless of what college or university a student comes from, but Georgia-Pacific actively recruits from UW-Green Bay and attends all its career fairs. We have different departments that attend those career fairs such as Georgia-Pacific’s transportation team called “KBX Logistics,” along with our sales team “GPXpress®,” which play the biggest roles in recruiting from the University.
Danforth has been with Georgia-Pacific for six years and a manager of the Supply Chain planning and purchasing team for more than two years. Over that time, he’s seen a number of interns go through the program that started before he began working with the company. While the program helps the interns build their professional resume and learn about working in the corporate culture, interns help the company by bringing new insight and a fresh perspective into processes as well as provide system improvements to help streamline the organization.
“The biggest payoff for me personally has been serving as a role model and a coach for these students,” he said. “I get to not only develop their softskills, but also to develop their supply chain knowledge of processes.”
Georgia-Pacific is a worldwide leader in making tissue, pulp, packaging and building products, producing everything from paper towels to bath tissue. Danforth works in the supply chain planning and purchasing department, which supports the buying of finished goods from outside suppliers. When one of its mills is over capacity or does not have the capabilities to make a product, his team secures the finished goods from outside suppliers, then stores the inventory at Georgia-Pacific’s fulfilment warehouses for their customers. His team’s main responsibility is to manage outside supplier production requirements with domestic and international suppliers—from the purchasing of raw materials to be converted into finished good or just straight buying of finished goods.
“The internship in the supply chain of Georgia-Pacific is a six-month program that provides interns with a job offer at the end of the time period if they are successful within the program,” Danforth said.
Between May and November of 2019, Elizabeth Johnson served as an intern at the Georgia-Pacific plant in Green Bay. Handling day-to-day operations helped her utilize her education in business with a focus on human resources and supply chain management. After graduating in December of 2019, she took a position at the company’s Atlanta headquarters.
From there, she was assigned a mentor, also a former intern, who helped her to get acclimated to the plant and working for the company, as well as to encourage her through the process.
“When I took the internship, I didn’t think it would lead to a position,” Johnson said. “It’s been a really great opportunity. I would encourage anyone to take the chance and do it.”
– Story by freelance writer Liz Carey