BRATTLEBORO -- Interns and coordinators of a new, paid internship program are pleased with results so far.
"We are at the very beginning of our program," said Jan Coplan, Internship Coordinator for Southeastern Vermont Economic Development Strategies and Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation.
For the past several months, she has established relationships with local businesses. That required visits to more than 70 different places in the Windham County region, during which she made employers aware of the pool of students that may be interested in employment through an internship program.
According to a press release, the purpose of the SeVEDS program is to assist students with finding meaningful internships. College students were already being placed in paid Windham County jobs through the Windham Higher Education Cooperative. This sparked a natural collaboration with SeVEDS.
"The SeVEDS group was really feeling like we can really tie this into our regional economic goals," Coplan said, referring to the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategies document that was submitted and will be recognized by the feds. "The hope is to give them some sort of community so they decide after their internship not to leave Vermont. They also get to experience the quality of life."
Only two students were able to secure a position through the program since it opened up this summer.
Colleges involved in the program include Vermont Technical College, Community College of Vermont, Marlboro College, SIT World Learning, Union Institute and Landmark College. There were talks of possibly including more colleges but Coplan said it was important to build a strong program before expanding it.
"I do foresee that as a great opportunity," she added. "We want to make sure we build something solid before we dilute it too much."
Omoefe Ogbeide recently enrolled in a bachelor's program at Landmark College and received an e-mail about the newly available internships. She said the full-time position at Fulflex Elastometrics Worldwide sounded the most intriguing. It is a Brattleboro-based company that produces custom made elastic and rubber products for customers that include Nike, General Electric and 3M.
Ogbeide is currently a coordinator in a project known as the World Class Initiative. She reviews and edits procedures and standards for operations.
"The goal is so that any plant in the world would have the same exact procedures happening," she said, adding that Fulflex has plants in places such as India and Singapore. "It has to do with quality. All the steps have to be done correctly in order for them to come out to the specifications."
Ogbeide described the documents she sifts through and discusses with quality managers as the Holy Grail of everything related to the plant. She said she has to make sense of it even when that proves to be difficult.
When she has some downtime, Ogbeide will assist with other processes in the plant. She began the internship in June and will work full-time at Fulflex until the end of this month before she goes back to school. She has accepted a part-time position there once classes start.
"They asked me to stay on," Ogbeide said. "It's apparently a two-year project. I was pretty ecstatic."
She just turned 24 and said she expects that she will hold onto that job until at least the end of next year when the World Class Initiative project is slated to be completed.
Before arriving at Landmark College, where she runs the school newspaper, Ogbeide struggled with Attention Deficit Disorder. She learned she had the disorder while at Brandeis University and took a leave of absence. When she arrived in Vermont, she began studying neuroscience but has plans to go into international business.
"When I came to Landmark, it was like a light bulb went off," she said.
Her parents were both immigrants from Nigeria. She was born in California.
Although being in the medical field is highly lauded in family, Ogbeide said she would like to be part of international development.
"Places like India and China, places not even on the dashboard 50 years ago, now interact as equal partners with the U.S.," she added. "I would love to be part of that shift. These developing countries are becoming emerging markets."
According to Ogbeide, the biggest problem with internships today is there is not enough room for interns to take more initiative or responsibility.
"It's basically glorified coffee runs," she said. "That's why I feel this internship has been so mind-blowing."
In the past, she believes that internships may have led to a position at a company but now, that is often not the case. To millennials, Ogbeide said the word "internship" does not have the weight it used to have.
Hearing Ogbeide's feedback was very reassuring to Coplan and those involved with SeVEDS.
"Even just what she's been able to experience in the business has been fantastic," said Coplan.
Cameron Goller heard of the internship program on the Internet while searching for a summer job. He was finishing up his sophomore semester at Emory University in Atlanta, Ga., where he studies biology. He is 20 years old.
His family resides in Keene, N.H., and he wanted to find a position nearby.
"I was looking for a summer job to keep me occupied," he said.
The internship at BDCC is a change of pace, Goller told the Reformer. He has compiled reports and conducted data analysis.
Through the internship, he said he has learned more about the economic landscape of Windham County. One of the recent charges for SeVEDS includes developing a list of employers in the region.
Goller visited area businesses asking for job projections. On Tuesday, he went over edits for a presentation on the workforce data he has assisted with collecting.
"I take that data and try to make sense of it," he said. "It's been a nice working experience and a nice environment to sort of grow my career."
Goller will be back at school on Aug. 23. He said he will likely return to New England after graduation.
Coplan anticipates a busy season for the internship program in the upcoming fall and spring. It is a year long program but each school has its own requirements and schedules.
The program is regional. There are 20 internship opportunities currently posted for the Windham County region on VBSR.org.
Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.