The closing of Pfizer Inc.’s Ann Arbor site in January caused 2007 Engineering graduate Andrew Laskowski to panic.

Jessica Boullion
The Ann Arbor Pfizer site terminated its internship program when it closed in January, ruining the summer plans of University students who thought they could rely on working for the company. (SHAY SPANIOLA/Daily)

After interning with Pfizer last summer, he planned to go back to the company if other internship opportunities didn’t pan out.

He didn’t think Pfizer would shut its doors.

“At the time I was really worried,” he said. “I thought that would be there for a long time.”

Pfizer terminated the Ann Arbor site’s internship program this year and left many University students scrambling to secure other summer work opportunities in a state with a struggling job market.

Recent Engineering graduate Heidi Howes said she found out her summer plans were ruined after reading about the closing in a newspaper.

She had interned with Pfizer last summer, and had talked with her former supervisor about returning. But when she called to check on the internship this year, she found out that both her and her supervisor were out of jobs.

“It put me at a disadvantage,” Howes said. “I was behind when I was looking for an internship or a job.”

Cynthia Redwine, director of the Engineering Career Resource Center, said that Pfizer usually hired interns from the College of Engineering in the past.

She said about 10 Engineering students a year reported receiving internships from Pfizer and that there were probably many more that chose not to report their summer plans to the ECRC.

Laskowski’s main concern after Pfizer announced its closing was whether or not he would be able to find another job in Michigan.

“I was a little afraid that I wouldn’t be able to find work for the summer,” he said. “All the other Michigan companies had already done their hiring.”

Ann Arbor SPARK, a non-profit organization dedicated to bolstering Ann Arbor’s economy, advertises available jobs and career training opportunities on its website to keep former Pfizer employees in Michigan.

These efforts are made as part of the Pfizer Strategic Working Action Team, formed in late January to evaluate regional consequences of the Pfizer closing, reduce economic harm by bringing in businesses and keep people from moving away by providing new jobs.

So far, Ann Arbor SPARK has reached out to several companies for open positions and has also organized career fairs, Ann Arbor SPARK CEO Mike Finney said.

Amy Cell, an Ann Arbor SPARK director, said that a few University students seeking internships have contacted her.

She said an internship tab was added to the career services portion of the organization’s website on Friday.

Ken Nisbet, director of the University’s Technology Transfer program and a co-chair of a SWAT team, said that in the last year, administrators have been talking about ways to expand the University’s internship resource programs.

He said the changes would provide students with interview training and new ways to search out internships.

“People are really interested, they think it’s important,” he said.

During his undergraduate years, Laskowski took advantage of the HireME program provided through the ECRC to find internships.

Laskowski, who is returning to the University in the fall for graduate school, said that before Pfizer closed, he was planning to stay in Michigan after graduation. Now he isn’t sure.

“Pfizer would have been the number one choice to work in Michigan,” Laskowski said.

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