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2024 - Elgin Community College student Joseph Patino turns internship into employment

Tags: Student Profile
Published 06/24/2024
ECC student Joseph Patino (left) with Joe Ruffalo, vice president of operations at MRK

ECC student Joseph Patino (left) with Joe Ruffalo, vice president of operations at MRK

Elgin Community College student Joseph Patino dove into higher education after high school, beginning at ECC in August 2023. Determined to forge a path for his future, Patino sought further guidance through ECC’s Future Workforce Leaders Program.

“Back in high school, I never joined any programs,” Patino said. “I figured I should take advantage of the opportunities here, so I decided to join the Future Workforce Leaders Program.”

The Future Workforce Leaders Program offers 16 to 24-year-olds the opportunity to participate in training to assist them in obtaining employment. The Future Workforce Leaders Program is a Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Program funded through the Cook County Workforce Partnership and Kane County Office of Community Reinvestment Division.

Patino did not have a specific program of study in mind when he began at ECC, but after expressing his interest in science, engineering, and computers, he entered a Paid Work Experience (PWE) with MRK Group, Ltd, an IT asset disposition and electronics recycling company.

After successfully completing his PWE and gaining interest in the MRK Group, Patino worked with ECC’s Strategic Partnerships and Experiential Learning Department to transfer into an internship. He continued to find success at the MRK Group, and in April 2024, he was offered a part-time job with the company.

“It’s been amazing working for the MRK Group,” Patino said. “Here, I get the opportunity to work a job that gives me flexible hours to continue focusing on school.”

Joe Ruffalo, vice president of operations at MRK, said Patino was the perfect candidate when he took him on as an intern and later offered him employment. “I could instantly tell he was a hard worker and interested in what he was doing,” Ruffalo said.

Ruffalo has partnered with ECC to provide students with PWE and internships for years. Although it slowed down at times, it ramped back up in the last few years after COVID-19, and they couldn’t be happier.

“We love working with ECC,” Ruffalo said. “We get to help younger people who are just trying to get their foot in the door of an industry with many upsides. It’s great for them, and it’s great for us.”

Patino works as a test and repair technician for MRK. Each day varies, working on tasks like testing laptops, erasing their hard drives, and determining which ones can be resold.

Patino is pursuing an Associate in Science degree and plans to transfer to the University of Illinois at Chicago for a Bachelor’s in Medical Engineering.  

For more information on ECC’s Future Workforce Leaders Program, visit