MORRIS – About a dozen of Grundy County’s largest companies will be hiring local high school students as summer interns this year.
The Grundy Area Vocational Center coordinates the summer internship program, which is designed to give local students a taste of some of the best jobs Grundy County has to offer so they are motivated to return to the area for employment after college.
“The goal of it is trying to keep our talent local,” Kent Bugg, Coal City District 1 Superintendent, said. “Instead of our best and brightest moving on and going to Chicago or the suburbs, we want them to realize there are tremendous job opportunities right here in Grundy County.”
When the program began last year, it had “limited participation,” GAVC Director Lance Copes said. Now in its second year, the program has nearly tripled in size.
“It was very successful last year so the word has spread,” Copes said.
This summer, 179 students from Coal City, Morris, Minooka, Gardner and South Wilmington will compete for 27 internship positions with 12 local companies including Aux Sable, LyondellBasell, Utility Concrete and more.
Students do not have to be enrolled in GAVC to participate in the program, Copes said. This year’s positions will provide experience in a variety of fields including marketing, human resources, engineering, accounting, internet technology and more.
“There are some positions that are paid and some that are unpaid,” Copes said.
Part of the program’s growth stems from the positive testimonials given by the three companies that participated in the program last year, Nancy Norton Ammer, Grundy Economic Development Council CEO said.
“The business community was blown away with the caliber of the candidates they received,” Ammer said. “The businesses talked among themselves and recruited the new companies to join the program this year.”
Erin Murphy-Frobish, vice president of Human Resources for Morris Hospital & Healthcare Centers, said she was impressed with her HR intern last year and will be hiring another this year.
In the past, she said her office hired college-age interns but never a high school student.
“We were just thrilled with the quality of work the student was able to preform,” Murphy-Frobish said. “She did a stellar job.”
Copes said the amount of students applying has grown, as well, adding that some of the students who went through the program last year and left for college are retaining their internships this year.
The program provides students a competitive edge when applying for colleges by equipping them with real-world job experience in a career they are interested in, Copes said.
“It’s really a great benefit on both sides,” Ammer said. “In some cases, if things really work out, there’s ongoing employment opportunities for these students.”
Copes said the GAVC is matching the candidates to each available position for this year’s program. Copes will provide a list of about 10 students per position to the participating businesses so the companies can go through an interview process to decide which student will be hired.
Bugg said he is excited about the growth of the program because more students will be exposed to local job opportunities and, hopefully, will be more encouraged to come back to Grundy County.
“Those kids that stay, those are the kids that become your county board members, your school board members, your entrepreneurs and your business leaders,” Bugg said. “We want to keep those students here.”