Prime Job Opportunities For GCC Co-Op Students
PR 028 – October 3, 2013 College Relations, Communications, and Marketing
  Director, Andrea Stanton 856-415-2229
Kathleen Malloy 856 468-5000, ext 6495
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GCC student at his Co-op

Gloucester County College co-op student Keith Esslinger (background) of Pitman observes as Master Craftsman Pedro Sime of Merchantville constructs a wall unit at the Prime Design Architectural Cabinetry & Millwork facility in Blackwood.

GCC student at his co-op

Prime Design Architectural Cabinetry & Millwork President and CEO Maureen Pollard reviews drafting designs being created for a client by Gloucester County College co-op student Keith Esslinger at the Blackwood facility.

Deptford Twp. – As a draftsman, Keith Esslinger is used to making pieces fit together. But this Gloucester County College civil engineering student never imagined that losing his construction job and enrolling in school would align his future so perfectly.

Unemployed for a year because of the slow economy, the Pitman resident decided to expand his career options by pursuing an engineering degree. A change in job direction, a new program at Gloucester County College and a partnership with a local business have resulted in Esslinger securing full-time employment and building a promising future.

In his search for a class, the GCC sophomore happened upon the College’s new Cooperative Education program, a Business Studies initiative launched this summer blending education with local business to expose students to real-life work experiences. The three-redit class offers hands-on training in addition to online course work. The internships are both paid and unpaid.

“I looked into a summer course and saw that internship positions were available. There was a paid co-op opening for a draftsman at Prime Design Architectural Cabinetry & Millwork in Blackwood so I applied, went on a job interview and started in May,” said Esslinger.  “As a welder I had worked in a machine shop so I’m familiar with that type of environment, and being an engineering student I know AutoCAD and other drafting and architectural software programs. It was a good fit. This has been a great learning experience.”

From a business perspective, GCC’s new Cooperative Education program helps to fill a void, a benefit for employers as well as for the students. President and CEO of Prime Design Maureen Pollard is pleased with the outcome of being one of the companies to participate in the College’s program.  So pleased in fact that she hired Esslinger and has plans to seek additional cooperative education students.
“Even though the economy is not so great, unemployment is high and there is a plethora of workers, it is still difficult to find qualified individuals. The population is aging and the amount of qualified workers is diminishing,” said Pollard. “This is a wonderful opportunity for the students as well as for the local employers. It’s an advantage to grab students while still in school and train them to the specific needs of the business. GCC’s co-op program is a great resource.”

Advocates for mixing business with education, such as Pollard and GCC’s Cooperative Education Program Director Darlene Berger believe employers participating in these types of programs are getting a good payoff — talented and motivated individuals who are willing to work hard to prove their worth. Students benefit not only from the knowledge garnered during the 15-week Cooperative Education course but also from being able to include the work experience on their resumes, giving them an advantage over other candidates for employment.
“The goal of the Cooperative Education program is to provide students with meaningful, hands-on training to assist them in discovering abilities and knowledge for future career advancement,” said Berger. “Students are able to apply the skills learned in a classroom to real-world situations. In addition, participating in the program provides the distinct advantage of work experience on their resumes.”

Rich Medora, Prime Design’s manager of Project Managing and Engineering, was charged with mentoring Esslinger during his summer-long co-op class.  Although Esslinger knows AutoCAD, Medora is looking forward to educating the new employee on how to use other specialized software programs.

“Keith is very reliable, punctual and eager to learn. I trust that he does all the background research necessary when designing for clients. He is a great asset to the company,” stated Medora.

Prime Design currently employs 47 full-time people at its Blackwood facility, using state-of-the-art technology to manufacture custom commercial, hospitality, healthcare and residential millwork in wood, laminate, metal, fabric, glass and stone for companies throughout the east coast and London, England. Customers include Campbell Soup, Citigroup, Marriott, Rothman, DuPont, Sallie Mae and Salad Works. The Blackwood facility has been operation for 28 years.

“The Co-Op program has been a great learning opportunity and I was lucky to get a job out of it. I would definitely recommend it. Plus, it’s also extra credits toward a degree,” said Esslinger, who plans to graduate from GCC with an associate degree then transfer to Rowan University for his bachelor’s degree in engineering. 

 For additional information about GCC’s Cooperative Education program, visit or email

Gloucester County College is located on a 250-acre campus on Tanyard Road, Deptford, just off Exit 56 of Route 55.