Student enjoying cooperative education experience in Switzerland

By University Communications
August 8, 2015
UW-Stout manufacturing engineering student Michael Guzman works with the Coordinate Measuring Machine at Fischer AG in Switzerland.

Photo: UW-Stout student Michael Guzman works at Fischer AG in Switzerland.

University of Wisconsin-Stout student Michael Guzman is experiencing what many UW-Stout students experience, hands-on work in a Cooperative Education placement.

Guzman's experiences are atypical however: He is surrounded not only by mountains, the Swiss Alps to be exact, but also by speakers of as many as seven language groups.

Guzman, a manufacturing engineering major, is working as an international manufacturing engineer at Fischer AG Präzisionsspindeln in Herzogenbuchsee, Switzerland.

Of the approximate 250 workers at the facility, most speak German. "A little under half know basic English," Guzman said.

The other languages represented are the local Swiss-German dialect, Italian, French, Spanish, Turkish and Albanian. A lot of nonverbal communication is used, he said. He also tries to greet his co-workers in German. "They acknowledge and appreciate my attempt," he said.

His cooperative experience started in May and will continue until early September.

The company provides high-speed precision spindle products and repair services for manufacturers.

For the first two months, Guzman's main responsibilities were to observe, establish and document procedures for CMM —Coordinate Measuring Machine programming —while also creating operating standards to obtain measurement data within one micron.

"In addition, I have been designing fixtures, tooling and system configurations that will be used to standardize machine operation," he said.

For the last month of the co-op, Guzman will train co-workers at the facility in Racine. "The utilization of our Zeiss CMM is a new project to Fischer USA. Thus I have been granted full control to how I want this system structured and implemented," he said.

Although this is the first time he has worked with the company abroad, Guzman is well acquainted with Fischer USA in Racine, his hometown. He started as a manufacturing apprentice for the company when he was a high school student and has continued to work there during his years at UW-Stout. 

Much to his delight, Guzman was offered the opportunity to work and do research in Switzerland for the summer, which has been "truly unbelievable," he said. "All of my co-workers have been so generous and kind to me as I've been growing as a professional," he said.

"It is an incredible feeling knowing that the company trusts me with this project, especially since I am a student and not a full-time employee," Guzman said.

Guzman, who will be a senior at UW-Stout in the fall, isn't clear yet as to his plans after he graduates.

"My number one choice will always be to stay with the Fischer Spindle Group, but I still want to interview and learn about other industries," he said.

The university encourages students to participate in the nationwide Cooperative Education Program coordinated through Career Services. The program integrates college studies with work experience in industry, business, government or public service.

Participating students develop employment contacts, interpersonal skills and pursue career goals in addition to applying learned educational theory to the work setting. Through the program, students leave campus for a period of up to one year to work nationally or internationally to further develop their professional skills as they prepare for full-time careers.

Since 2011, 940 students a year on average have participated in UW-Stout's program. In addition to Guzman, three other students are doing international co-ops this summer.