They came by bus. They came by train. They spent hours commuting to Baxter's facilities in Deerfield, Ill. and Round Lake, Ill. – and for some it was one of their first opportunities to spend much time outside the urban Chicago neighborhoods where they grew up. But nearly all of them said it was one of the most enriching and confidence-building weeks of their lives.
In June, 24 Chicago Public School high students took part in Baxter's second annual summer high school internship program. The students, all rising seniors, spent the week learning from nearly 75 Baxter professionals about business strategy, current trends in the healthcare environment, and the variety of functional roles necessary within the company. They also toured the company's Round Lake lab and took part in hands-on experiments in research and development. Every student left Baxter with an updated resume, networking strategies and tips for surviving and thriving in college.
"I learned so much that is going to help me with my future," says Christian Calderon, a senior at Instituto Health Sciences Career Academy, one of three Baxter-sponsored CPS schools participating in the program.
STEM in the real world
An initiative related to Science@Work: Expanding Minds with Real-World Science–Baxter's multi-year commitment to Chicago Public Schools (CPS) to support teacher training and student development in healthcare and biotechnology program–the internship program is just one of the company's many STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and career development efforts for students. Over the past year, several Baxter employees have also been working to help students at Chicago's Muchin College Preparatory High School apply what they learn in class to a potential career in science or engineering.
Marc Minkus, Baxter's senior director of research and development, started the process by meeting with the school's science teachers to better understand the curriculum, and then he worked with several business units within Baxter to develop presentations and activities to be conducted over the course of the school year to help apply the company's work to what students were learning in the classroom. For example, the company's hemophilia team helped him develop a hands-on experiment demonstrating how to reconstitute a medicine Baxter manufactures that is used to replace clotting factor VIII, a protein missing in people with hemophilia A, to pair with the freshman biology unit on genetics. One of Baxter's packaging engineers came into the classroom to show the Muchin sophomores a manufacturing video that explores the company's unique drug delivery systems sterile contract manufacturing services and the sterilization process they use, which related to the school's unit on gas laws in chemistry.
"During the time we spent at Muchin, we helped more than 700 students better understand the applicability of science to a future career, and received nothing but positive feedback from the science teachers," Minkus says.
Providing professional experiences
Baxter also works with partners to help college students and young adults prepare for careers at the corporate level. Since 2008, Baxter has joined about 20 other Fortune 500 companies to serve as a corporate sponsor of Howard University's 21st Century Advantage Program (21 CAP).
Students as young as freshman take courses in business orientation, team building and leadership development and are then "adopted" by a corporation. The companies sponsor on-site training sessions for students where they learn about the company's history, culture, business and industry dynamics. Each year several students receive scholarships from Baxter and others have been hired as summer interns in the areas of engineering, finance, information technology (IT), manufacturing and supply chain. One 21 CAP participant has now been hired as a full-time employee.
In January, Baxter hired Alexander Roberts, a member of Baxter's 2009-2010 21 CAP team, as a full-time information technology employee. Roberts, who also interned in Baxter's IT department for two summers as an undergraduate, says that had it not been for his involvement in 21 CAP, he never would have considered a job at Baxter-or even in the corporate world.
"Before the program, I was an introvert in the truest sense of the word," recalls Roberts. "But through the experience, I not only learned IT skills such as website creation and application IT security, but also improved my communication skills and became more outgoing. Now I walk around the office introducing myself to people, and feel much more comfortable when I have to give presentations."Since then, Roberts has returned to his alma mater with members of Baxter's African American affinity group and IT Development Program to teach classes and host information sessions to encourage students to consider going into the field of information technology. He hopes that others can benefit from the same experience he had.
"My time in 21 CAP allowed me to work alongside many different styles of people and gave me the skills I needed," says Roberts. "It prepared me to be a leader in whatever role I take on."