Safran Group and University of Florida Innovation Station Collaborate to Foster Engineering Talent

Safran Group (SAF), a global aircraft systems manufacturer, has a strong presence in Sarasota, Florida, with a dedicated aerospace operation. This facility houses an experienced and committed engineering and manufacturing workforce, dedicated to nurturing the next generation of engineers. Safran has joined forces with the University of Florida Innovation Station Sarasota County to establish vital connections between exceptionally talented engineering students and Safran’s HR and engineering teams. This initiative aims to bridge the gap between academia and industry, providing students with invaluable real-world experience.

From left to right, Kyle Person, Frank Pernas, Lili Sikorski, PJ Foreman

This past summer, four students from the University of Florida’s Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering had the unique opportunity to join Safran’s engineering team. During their internships, they were introduced to various facets of Safran’s operations and business strategies.

Safran’s primary goal with this internship program is to seamlessly integrate real-world engineering challenges and problem-solving into the student’s learning experiences. Etienne Florin, Safran’s Engineering Manager, emphasizes that the interns were entrusted with tasks that mirror the responsibilities of full-time engineers. They actively engaged in day-to-day work, contributing to design, product development, and operations. This approach allowed Safran to evaluate whether these emerging talents were technically proficient and culturally aligned with the organization’s values.

Taking on diverse engineering challenges significantly expanded the students’ soft skills and deepened their knowledge across various engineering disciplines. Lily Sikorski, a second-year Industrial Engineering student, was assigned to the test lab, where she quickly became an integral quality assurance team member. Reflecting on her experience, she notes, “I worked on product improvement projects and acquired technical skills that extend beyond the classroom curriculum.”

Frank Pernas, a third-year Aerospace Engineering student, enthusiastically shares his journey: “I dived into engineering software, mechanical engineering, and even ventured into electrical engineering. The Safran engineers and manufacturing teams embraced me as part of their own.” His supervisor, Olivier Cottalorda, adds, “Frank exceeded our expectations—his creativity, willingness to offer suggestions, and contribution of innovative ideas were exceptional.”

Aerospace Engineering majors Kyle Pearson and PJ Foreman were assigned to Safran’s manufacturing teams. Pearson explains, “I started from scratch and gained the confidence to assess and devise solutions for machines and processes. I learned how to approach unfamiliar machinery effectively.” Foreman appreciates Safran’s collaborative and trust-based environment, stating, “The level of responsibility was much higher than I had anticipated.” Andres Niederer, Safran Engineering Team Lead, expresses his admiration for their progress: “We threw them into the deep end, and they’ve made remarkable strides in a short time.”

Safran’s unwavering commitment to its engineering internship program is evident in its approach to both supporting and challenging its interns. Lauren Baez, Safran Human Resources Business Partner, concludes, “The partnership with UF Innovation Station and the connection to these exceptionally talented students greatly contributed to the success of this summer program. We eagerly anticipate their return.”

For information on how to partner with the UF Innovation Station in Sarasota for engineering internships, please contact Ann Marie Chupa at