National Mentoring Month: MVAC Internships Pair College Students With Local Business Owners

22 Jan 2024

It’s only January, but college students from Martin County are already thinking about summer thanks to the Minnesota Valley Action Council (MVAC) internship program. Each year, MVAC works with 14 students to find internships in the area that are relevant to their chosen degrees. Through support from the Martin County Board of Commissioners and the South Central WorkForce Council, interns receive 240 hours of work experience throughout the summer. The entire program, including the intern salaries, is funded by the county.

“Fairmont has a lot to offer and many of our youth are unaware of the opportunities in their hometown,” says Tammie Hested, Family Resources Coordinator at MVAC. “Students get to live at home, gain valuable job experience, and still get to be around family and friends.”

Hested has already met with 13 college students who are eager to work with Fairmont businesses this summer. The program continues to thrive as more students express interest in learning from Martin County business owners. 

The Internships Are Designed With Local Businesses in Mind

Starting in December, Hested works carefully with students and businesses to make sure each intern pairing is a good fit. This allows students to get the mentorship they need to build valuable skills and experience that they can bring to future employers.

“Internships are a great way to prepare students to enter the workforce,” says Ned Koppen, Economic Development Coordinator at Fairmont Economic Development. “This program helps students learn about all the great businesses that operate in their hometowns.”

There are additional ways that MVAC internships support the Fairmont community. Students spend 29 hours per week at their internship, which frees up time for them to hold part-time jobs in the area. A student could work at an accounting office in the morning and then clock in as a lifeguard in the afternoon.

Students also live at home during this time. This allows them to save money over the summer before returning to school. The internship program pays around $13 per hour and is open to college students who have completed at least a year of instruction. It is only available to students who attended high school in Martin County and who will intern with businesses in Martin County. 

Mentorship Guides Students to Better Futures

An internship supported by this county-funded program can help students feel confident that they are choosing the right career paths. It can guide them toward their true calling, even if that means changing their coursework.

Hested shared a story of a student who thought he wanted to work in city administration. During his internship, the student realized his passion was actually in law enforcement. His mentor with the city helped him connect with local police departments so he could learn about both potential career paths.

“What a win that you already know that a career field is not something you want,” says Hested. “It makes sense to know now instead of three years down the road when you are done with school.”

The student is currently pursuing a career in law enforcement.  

Internships Bring Students Back to Martin County 

Not only is the MVAC internship program a win for students and businesses over the summer, but its efforts support Fairmont as a whole.

“We would love it if these students came back after graduation,” says Hested. “That’s the reason we do this. How can we get college graduates to come back to our community?”

The program encourages highly educated young professionals to start their lives in the area. Students attend county commission meetings to learn what the county does for them. They directly experience the benefits of living in a rural community.

Last year, two of the 14 students were offered jobs in the area and decided to stay in Martin County. Since the program’s founding in 2012, nearly 40 participants have stayed to live and work in the area

“You are always welcome here,” says Hested. “We will welcome you back to the community with open arms.”

The county-funded program by MVAC is just one way that Fairmont community leaders and business owners work together. Read more success stories about Fairmont Economic Development to make the region a great place to be.