For the next several weeks, 52 young adults will undergo a rigorous internship and job training program that will place them with some of the largest employers in the Mobile area.
In its fifth year, the Mobile County Summer Internship Program — sponsored by the Mobile County Commission, Mobile Works, PNC Bank and the University of South Alabama — is said to have seen its stiffest competition yet.
In all, more than 150 applicants, ages 17-21, applied to join the program, and after a lengthy interview process, the 52 who advanced were introduced to the public during a brief ceremony held Wednesday at Government Plaza.
Ramona Hill, a Workshops, Etc.! employee and one of the program coordinators, said the program aims to take talented and skilled young adults and make them even better through skills training and hands-on experience.“We’re trying to emulate what it looks like to actually have a job — to apply for a job, train for a job and then actually work that job,” Hill said. “They are about to enter an intern Bootcamp, where we will take this very shiny bunch you see behind me and shine them up even more. They will be the best representation of what the workforce of future looks like.”
For participants, Mobile County Summer Internship Program consists of 35 hours of job training followed by a four-week internship with businesses in a wide variety of industries that employ thousands throughout the county.
Through funds made available by the Mobile County Commission and the other program sponsors, the students will also be paid for their work during the internship. Some of the participating corporate partners employing those participants include AM/NS Calvert, Airbus, Austal USA, Mobile Infirmary, Arkema in Axis and the Olin Chemical Plant in McIntosh.“Mobile County businesses have come forward to give these young people real and meaningful work and to challenge them to excel in the workplace,” Commission President Merceria Ludgood said. “These students will gain real workplace experience in a variety of fields, including engineering, aerospace, manufacturing, medical and the nonprofit sector.”
Though Mobile Works used to receive federal funds to facilitate similar job training programs, cuts in Washington ultimately saw those funds dry up. However, for the past five years, Mobile County meet those same needs through its program — a workforce development initiative Ludgood has championed with support from her fellow commissioners.
“It’s not very often that we get to invest money directly into a person’s life in county government, usually we give to an organization or the bigger picture, but my personal feeling is that we’re investing in each one of these young people’s lives,” Commissioner Jerry Carl said. “When I look at them, I look at our future business leaders, our future community leaders and future our elected officials.”
Participants are the only benefactors, though. Commissioner Connie Hudson said businesses participating in the program consistently provide input that allows the program focus it’s training components on the skills those companies need and seek out in potential employees.
With that said, Hudson did say the program has had a major impact on young people who’ve participated in the past — some later finding full-time jobs with the businesses they interned for.
“To hear testimony, this, for many young people, has been life changing experience,” Hudson said. “I think it will help set them up and give them the skills they’ll need to move out into the workplace and market themselves. That’s what this is all about.”
The unique skills and talents of the participants are factored into the internships they’re placed into, and while each student’s preferences are considered, Hill said there’s not a direct match to student’s intended career path or a particular degree they’re interested in pursuing.
However, Carl told participants Wednesday that any job experience is a good experience for young people just entering the workforce, adding that before moving into business and eventually politics, he majored in forestry.
“You’ll never have a job that you don’t learn from,” Carl concluded. “Learn from it, use those experiences and by all means, pull somebody up with you as you’re going. You are the future. So, what’s the future going to be?”