Applications for winter/spring semester 2022 for the JSDC Internship Reimbursement Program at the Jamestown/Stutsman Development Corp. are being accepted until Dec. 20. Internships will begin no earlier than January.
JSDC allocated $105,000 for the program that launched earlier this year, with approval from the city of Jamestown and Stutsman County. The program is designed to increase the number of local internships and help employers in workforce recruitment and retention, according to JSDC. The JSDC Internship Reimbursement Program contributes up to $3,500 to reimburse employers that are hiring university/college students to assist in payroll costs and is open to employers in Stutsman County.
Corry Shevlin, JSDC business development director, said six employers have received funding through the program since it began, and 13 interns have participated from seven colleges and universities. Small and larger businesses have participated, including Cavendish Farms, Collins Aerospace, North Dakota Farmers Union, BluFrog Realty & Property Management, Advantage Electric and Stutsman Harley-Davidson.
“We’ve seen quite a range, which is good because I think there’s that need for help,” Shevlin said. “In every industry, it’s tough when you talk to employers or you’re doing visits, and the number one thing we always hear is with the challenges that they face is always workforce. So this is still a way that we can assist without subsidizing real employment or anything like that. I still think that needs to be employee driven, this is just a way to help that out and help businesses attract employees.”
Interns participating in the program came from the University of Jamestown, University of North Dakota, North Dakota State University, North Dakota State College of Science, University of Illinois, South Dakota State University and South Dakota School of Mines.
“The goal of the program for us is to bring students into the community or bring interns into the community whether they start here or they come here, work and hopefully enjoy Jamestown and Stutsman County,” Shevlin said, “and hopefully, the end goal is to have them hired on full time and add to our workforce and our tax base in our community here.”
Jen Dockter, broker/managing partner of BluFrog Realty, said the program worked well for BluFrog Realty. She said she would recommend it to other businesses.
“I haven’t seen any issues with it at all. It was a good experience for us and we would definitely do it again,” she said.
BluFrog Realty’s intern, Lorigan Steuben, is a senior at the University of Jamestown. BluFrog received the maximum reimbursement for payroll costs allowed under the JSDC program and after Steuben's internship officially ended, she has continued to work there, earning credit from UJ.
“I think it’s definitely awesome that this is offered within our community,” Dockter said. Receiving reimbursement for a portion of an intern’s pay is an incentive to participate in the program, she said.
Steuben said she had not been part of an internship program before. She said she was into real estate and property management and thought it was something she wanted to go into.
“It has been interesting,” she said. “I like not doing the same thing every day.”
Shevlin said the application process is simple, requiring information most employers already have when they are advertising their positions.
“We find when applications get all too cumbersome it’s not worth it for some people to fill out so we’re trying to avoid (that),” Shevlin said. “We try to keep it simple from front to back but still do our due diligence to make sure that the appropriate people are being hired in the right positions ...”
The program is business led, not student led, he said.
“That’s our goal with this program is to attract workforce or help employers attract workforce to our community,” Shevlin said. “We think this is a way that can incentivize that company to do so. We reimburse on a one-to-one match for payroll but we don’t have any restrictions on what that employer does with that after that check is sent. We’ve heard that some employers are using it as a bonus-type situation where if the intern does a terrific job it’s kind of a cherry on top of the end of the internship … we kind of left that up to the employer of how they want to attract their workforce and their employees, we thought that flexibility would be helpful for them.”
The timeline for the internship is left up to the employer.
“When the funding is available, we try to keep it on a semester-by-semester basis,” Shevlin said. “If the intern’s going to be on for more than a semester they’re happy to or they’re willing to apply again but we just can’t guarantee, we want to take the new intern positions over the repeat ones.”
The intern must be paid $15 per hour and the employer must apply before the intern begins work. Preference for applications is given to small businesses, and a four-member committee from the JSDC Board of Directors goes through the applications and scores them. That scoring process is important if there are more applications than funding available, Shevlin said. So far, that has not been an issue.
The scoring is related to five questions: whether there is an adequate job description, what learning goals meet the job description, does it match the intern’s field of study, does the intern work 20 hours a week or more and how many full-time employees there are at the business. An applicant gets fewer points for fewer intern work hours than 20 and if there are more than 15 employees.
Shevlin said exit interviews are also part of learning about the pilot program. He expects to have “a lot more information” at the end of the first year of the program and hopes to see it renewed for 2022-23 after review.
“I think it’s been very helpful for our business, but that will be a board and committee review,” he said.
Shevlin said Jamestown’s need for workforce is not unique, noting in meetings with economic developers, it’s the No. 1 issue.
“How do we attract people and if there was a magic bullet ... that allowed people to do it, I think it would be very public on how it works,” he said. “But there’s a lot of things that our community does which I think we highlight and try and do a good job of explaining why living and working in Jamestown is a fantastic place. For a small community, the amount of amenities that are here in Jamestown and Stutsman County are unbelievable.”
For an application form for the program, go to https://bit.ly/3oAN70J. For information on the program, visit https://bit.ly/3oGzCwq. For more information on JSDC, visit https://www.growingjamestown.com/.