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Program provides local work experience

FAIRMONT– The Minnesota Valley Action Council/Martin County Summer Internship program provides college students the opportunity to come home to Martin County for the summer and work in a field they’re interested in. The program not only allows students to garner experience and a salary, but gives area businesses the chance to recruit young workers.

Tammie Hested, coordinator with MVAC, shared that the program started in 2012 after former commissioner Steve Pierce came back from a statewide conference on unemployment programs with the idea to bring college students who grew up in Martin County back to the area, with the hope of enticing them to return after college.

“The commissioners have invested in wanting young people back here,” Hested said.

The commissioners allocate the funds to pay wages and work comp insurance. MVAC and south central workforce council collaborate together and Hested coordinates the program.

To be eligible, one must be between the ages of 18 and 25 and attending a two or four-year college. Their family needs to live in Martin County.

“The application process is very easy. It’s very basic,” Hested said.

She said students typically send her a resume and she also meets with them to figure out what their interest are and what their career path is. Then she works to place them in an area that will provide them relevant work experience.

Hested works with various businesses in the county to line up work placements. Some reach out to her ahead of time asking if there’s a student interested in their work. She said the owners of the new Fairmont Brewing Company inquired about an intern.

“I also have one for Lenny Tvedten at the Martin County Historical Society. He’s always wanted an intern and this year I actually have one for him so that will be fun,” Hested said.

Other placements for this year include an intern at the pet hospital who is studying animal science, a graphic design student at Minuteman Press and a student who’s interested in city administration that Hested hopes the city will take on.

“I really let the student decide where they want to go. If they have no idea, and some of them don’t, I’ll reach out to a business,” Hested said.

While historically Hested has never had to advertise for the program, she admitted that she hasn’t yet received as many applications as she has in years past. She shared why that could be.

“For many of them (college students), last year they didn’t get to go to school. They were home doing everything online and this year they finally got to go and haven’t thought about coming home for the summer,” Hested said.

The program really provides a win-win situation for students and businesses alike. Hested said the interns work up to 29 hours a week, or 240 hours over the course of the summer.

“I still want kids to work at Jake’s Pizza and the Channel Inn and all those other jobs. It needs to be a priority, but they can still work a second job at other places,” Hested said.

She said she thinks 29 hours a week is also a good amount of time because sometimes it gets overwhelming for businesses to find enough for the interns to do.

“The goal is for them to learn so we don’t want to give them simple tasks that are mundane,” Hested said.

The jobs start sometime in May or whenever the student is done with school for the year. Most are done by early August.

The students will earn a competitive wage while getting relevant work experience. On the other side, Hested said the program can help some students discover what they don’t want to do, so when they go back to school they can change their route and study something they’re better fit for.

Students can apply now at mnvac.org. Hested can also be reached directly at 507-618-5616. Applications will be accepted until 14 interns are in the program.

“We want students to make connections here. Chances are they’ll go away and do their own thing, but we want them to know that there’s a job back here and connections here,” Hested said.

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