SMSD Students Thrive in Summer Internships at Midtown Signs

SMSD Students Thrive in Summer Internships at Midtown Signs
Shawnee Mission School District

Midtown Signs is a complete sign manufacturing shop where they plan, design, fabricate, finish, and install all kinds of signs from start to finish in-house. Dennis Baughman, owner and SMSD parent, wants to connect more students to the variety of opportunities in his business and has hired two Shawnee Mission student interns.

“Many students are unaware of the variety of opportunities in this industry, and we need to provide exposure and develop talent,” Baughman shared.

Afa'anwi Akwanka’a, SM East junior, was recommended for the graphic internship by Adam Finkleston, SM East art teacher.

“This is my first job and it’s been a really interesting experience because every day is different and I’m always learning something new,” Akwanka’a shared. The Midtown team shared all aspects of the business, from the beginning of a project to the final installation of a sign.

Young people don’t go to school to pursue a career in the sign industry, because they don’t know about this field, shared Renata Franklin, production manager. “Midtown Signs is a custom sign making company, not mass production, and that’s unusual. Many sign companies contract out the production and manufacturing portion of a job, but we build our signs from concept to installation.”

“The best part about working with our interns, is we can teach them our way, they are like sponges,” Franklin noted.

A second intern, Seamus McMahon, SM East, works in the production side of the business. McMahon brought his welding experience from SM West and his OSHA-10 certification to the internship. While he was used to welding steel, he has had the opportunity to learn to weld aluminum, the material used more often in signs. McMahon also had the opportunity to learn a new skill in sanding a compound and feathering it into the metal to smooth the surface in preparation for paint.

While Akwanka’a is interested in the design process and McMahon is interested in the production process, both interns were introduced to many aspects of the business, from learning how to use a push broom and clean up trash outside the building to helping design the new building Midtown will be expanding into in the next few months.

“The work I do here has substance, there is a client that expects a good result. That’s really different from a class project for a grade,” Akwanka’a noted.

Midtown Signs partnered with Greg Thiel’s engineering students on a client-connected project where the Engineering Design and Development students designed a paint cart that is being used today.

“It’s a great design, we made two carts from their design and prototype, and we are going to make a couple more as it has much more versatility than our old carts,” Krista Wentworth, production coordinator shared.

“We are so glad we jumped into Real World Learning with both feet this summer and hired two interns,” Baughman said. “These students are our future, and we are thrilled to teach and share our industry with them.”

“We look forward to staying engaged with the school district by providing guest speakers or tours of our facility and we will continue to host interns.”

Baughman encourages other businesses to support students and Real World Learning in their companies and industries.