Freeport Internships Build Future Talent While Honing Student Skills

July 26, 2022

A few months of hands-on experience at the Morenci mine and the guidance of a good mentor were enough to convince Bebak Sandhu to pursue a career in mining.

Sandhu is one of 253 interns who worked at Freeport-McMoRan sites throughout the United States this summer, performing a variety of jobs ranging from office work to engineering. Freeport will recognize its 2022 summer interns this July 28 and 29 at the company's Collaboration Hub in Phoenix, where about 100 interns will report on their summer projects to company leaders.

After three years of book learning at the University of Alberta in Canada, where he is studying materials engineering, Sandhu was selected for the company's internship program and assigned to the Modoc Test Facility in Morenci under the guidance of Aron Tyab, Senior Metallurgist-FM Mining Company.

Hooked on mining

The experience he gained doing everything from routine lab work to complex analysis got Sandhu hooked on a career in mining, a field in which he plans to specialize during his senior year. Eventually, he would like to return to the company as a full-time employee.

"Out here in the field, Aron sends us out pretty much every week, and if there is a problem, we go figure it out, we go solve it," Sandhu said. "In the classroom, everything is very structured and standardized. Out in the mine, there are a bunch of problems to solve."

Tyab said he has high expectations for his interns. This summer, he had Sandhu and Julia Twinney, who just finished her third year studying mining engineering at Queens University in Canada and also firmed up her decision on a mining career during her internship.

"The research that goes on behind the scenes has been really cool to me and is something I would love to pursue more in the future," Twinney said.

Tyab said he prefers to have his interns doing meaningful work rather than just watching him do it. He expects them to master the skills of their profession, from the routine to the complex.

"I want them to know it, because part of being a great engineer in your field is being able to do everything related to that field, whether it's down in the lab doing cleanup or data analysis," said Tyab, who provides technical assistance to the SXEW operation at Morenci and other company sites. "The best engineers know the process in and out, and that's my hope with them."

Internships critical for recruiting

Freeport's robust internship program is vital for attracting top talent in a tough labor market, said Betsy Johnson, Manager-Recruiting. Bringing on interns is a way to show them job opportunities in the mining industry, to cultivate their talents, and eventually to bring the best candidates into the company.

"Freeport has used its internship program as a pipeline to fill entry-level exempt positions for years," Johnson said. "It is a low-risk, high-reward way to cultivate and develop the future workforce. We hire talented, eager students, from freshman to Ph.D., who can put their academic experience to work on real-time, real-world meaningful projects that have an immediate impact on our business."

The internships are tailored to full-time students enrolled in accredited four-year universities and recent graduates in North America. They are temporary, full-time paid positions that typically run from May through August. Some students receive college credits for the internships, depending on their school and field of study.

Internships shaped by sites

The mix of interns by field of study is determined by the needs of each site. All Freeport sites in North America are part of the program. Morenci typically has more than 50 interns, the most of any site, scattered throughout various departments.

Historically, the company has brought in about 250 to 300 interns annually, except during the past two years, when the program was scaled back substantially due to the pandemic, Johnson said. Freeport canceled its internships in 2020 and took on 149 students last year.

On average, about 80 percent of the interns receive offers from Freeport, Johnson said. That may be a job offer for college graduates or a chance to return for another internship to those still in school. Of those who are offered a job or another internship, about 70 percent accept those opportunities.

The activities at the Hub on July 28 also coincide with National Intern Day. Established by WayUp in 2017, National Intern Day offers an opportunity for employers around the U.S. to celebrate the contributions of their interns. As part of this effort, WayUp will recognize its 2022 Top 100 Internship Programs. Interns and permanent employees of Freeport can vote for the company to be included on this list.


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