How CDME's undergraduate student program transforms workforce development

Posted: April 2, 2021

At The Ohio State University's Center for Design and Manufacturing Excellence (CDME), undergraduate students have the opportunity to gain the hands-on experience they need to make an immediate impact after graduation. While employed at CDME, students work on real projects for actual companies alongside industry-hardened experts also employed by the center. 

Charles Young, the director of business development at CDME, has witnessed the center's novel approach to applied engineering, technology translation, and experiential education evolve.

Before assuming his position with CDME, Young was the senior global business unit manager in automation products, services, and projects for ABB, a leading global technology company. He brings more than three decades of industry experience to his role. 

Young refers to CDME's program as a "game-changer." The following represents Young's perspective on the unique role CDME plays in transforming students into productive workforce members. 


From CDME's Charles Young:

"I enjoy seeing our undergraduate students succeed. Today, recruiting and hiring is a critical component of a company's success. Companies need students with authentic, applicable experience. They need new employees to become proficient and productive members of their workforce quickly. 

The revenue per employee for companies can be as high as $1 million; it's common now to see it at $500,000. That's why businesses are looking for maturity and capability when hiring graduates. Students can learn both those qualities, but when they're reinforced by experience, students are much closer to being productive when they graduate. Plus, they already exhibit many characteristics needed to reach full proficiency faster, including technical knowledge and soft skills. 

Many companies invest heavily in this concept by having their own internship or co-op program. At CDME, we encourage and help students seek these opportunities with our industry partners. These are valuable programs. However, what's different about CDME is that students can also work on industry-funded projects while taking academic classes. We designed the CDME program to be complementary to industry internships and co-op programs. 

At CDME, undergraduate students work on real-world projects while being mentored by staff with industry experience. Students work approximately 15 hours per week and are paid an hourly wage. That means that when they graduate, they have significantly more experience than typical interns or co-op participants. A CDME student worker can have as much as 4,000 hours of experience before being permanently hired. 

I worked in the industry sector for 33 years before transitioning to CDME four years ago. I'm also a parent to two sons already out in the workplace. As a business manager who has hired hundreds of people in my career, as well as a parent, I can tell you that this program is a game-changer. If we do this right, the day our students start their first post-graduate job will seem more like their first promotion than their first day of onboarding."

A student's perspective


From Ankitha Krishnamurthy, an undergraduate student assistant at CDME majoring in industrial and systems engineering

"CDME's student employment program helped me find a role that best combines my academic background, professional goals, and internship experience. This summer, I will be interning with Eaton, a global manufacturing company, in their aerospace division. I am excited to take what I have learned from CDME into that experience and vice versa. I am already starting to tie in aspects of my upcoming internship with my work since my role at CDME is flexible around my specific goals and interests. 

I really feel like CDME is invested in my education and career because of the financial support, project experience, and mentorship I will have received by the time I graduate. My work perfectly supplements my engineering and business coursework. I know it will help me going forward in my upper-level classes, internship assignments, capstone project, and especially later on when I enter the workforce. 

Working 15 hours per week has also helped me develop financial literacy and responsibility early on in my adult life. With the income I am earning and the healthy budgeting habits I've developed in the process, I am prepared to graduate without debt and make smart financial decisions as I start my career."

Want to learn more?

We're looking forward to exploring collaborative opportunities. To begin the partnership process or gain insight into our capabilities, connect with CDME Director of Business Development Charles Young ( 

Category: Students