Student interns hit stride at MSA Safety Incorporated
Brandon Lombardo, a Slippery Rock University communication major from New Castle, sets up for a video shoot at MSA Safety Incorporated. He is one of two SRU students completing an internship at the safety equipment giant.
Aug. 4, 2015
SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Picture this: You're a college student working at a Fortune 500 company, where you produce training videos for a business with 40 international locations and $1.1 billion in revenues. Target audience: the world.
This is the summer internship for Slippery Rock University students Jacob Miller and Brandon Lombardo.
SRU connected the communication majors from Cranberry and New Castle to internships at MSA Safety Incorporated. The Cranberry-based business employs 5,300 people, including 1,000 locally, and develops safety equipment and products that protect workers against hazardous or life-threatening situations.
In nine weeks, the students have created and produced eight videos with four more in the works. Their videos will be posted on the company's website. One can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HQBCFhb3Z4w.
"Our job is to produce videos for educational, instructional and marketing purposes," Miller said. "We work mainly in the fall protection division, which is body harnesses, anchorage points, connecting devices and more. These products are for safety when doing work at heights or confined spaces where fall hazards are present. It is our job to properly explain information to the consumer, distributors and sales personal in a visual, graphic way."
The internships resulted from a new partnership between SRU and MSA. The SRU students are producing corporate videos from an edgier, 20-something perspective, while MSA has supplied safety equipment to SRU for use in its safety program laboratories.
"Working here, I have gained a lot of experience, in the professional field sense," Miller said. "There are so many things that I have learned by this internship that compliment what was taught in the classroom. Things like legal approval and visual branding are things that are forgot about when working on class projects."
Students said the experiential learning has been enlightening because they have been able to marshal their digital media skills in a corporate environment.
"This internship has been a great experience so far and has given me much insight into how the corporate world works," Lombardo said. "MSA has given me the chance to fill out my portfolio with corporate videos. I have produced many different types of work in the past, from comedy skits to documentaries, but I have never had the opportunity to create videos for a Fortune 500 company."
The pair said they follow a format for each video shoot. Lombardo writes a script. Next, they storyboard the entire video shoot, shot by shot. After shooting the video, they edit the video and make any post-production changes.
"Pre-production is so important to make everything run smoothly," Lombardo said. "We aim to produce at least one video a week, with any extra time being used to plan out future videos or create elaborate intros and closings for the videos."
A lot more than most people think go into producing a video, especially when it is for a large international company, he said. Advance work includes speaking with engineers and supervisors to gain an in-depth understanding of a product.
"We map out exactly where and what our shots will look like and we gather a list of items needed for the shoot," Miller said. "Once all of this is complete, we schedule a shooting day and film all the shots needed for the video, sometimes extending to a couple of days. After that, comes the nitty-gritty of video production and that is editing. We spend hours working on the video to make sure that everything is covered and that nothing slips by."
Marc Harkins, an MSA product group manager, said he asked students to produce how-to videos that would replace outdated videos. He charged them with using contemporary techniques and simple English narration.
"I looked at the videos that were out there and asked the students to use the skill sets they leaned at Slippery Rock University that would make our videos more interesting and exciting," Harkins said. "I wanted them to position content as if they're targeting safety managers of tomorrow."
For one video, students used a split screen with a worker on the left side showing a worker on the right side how to put on a safety harness.
"They have set the bar pretty high," Harkins said.
Tom Flynn, SRU professor of communication who helped set up the internships, said work experience combining digital assets in a corporate, industrial setting offers untold dividends.
"This is a whole new career path, one that connects students with the idea of corporate media. It sounds kind of dull, vague or opaque but this gives them hands-on experience developing corporate media," Flynn said. "This is an exploding career opportunity for students."
Flynn said he hopes the initial MSA internship paves the way for broader student production opportunities, such as the creation of foreign language videos for MSA customers overseas, including China.
Internships such as the MSA one get to the heart of the career success issue - providing valuable, applied experience and connections, said John Rindy, SRU director of the Office of Career Development and Education.
"More than 70 percent of jobs come through contacts, especially among college graduates," he said. "Internships, job shadows, informational interviewing, volunteering, career fairs and alumni networking events are all ways to build that important network of those with hiring influence. These internships at MSA are a perfect example of cross-disciplinary networking and learning that serves these students well, given the fact that most Americans, by far, do not work in their field."
MSA produces, develops and sells products that workers use in a range of markets, including the oil, gas and chemical industries, fire service, construction, mining and the military.
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