June 22, 2023--Internships represent a great opportunity for aspiring young professionals. Finding the right company to evolve classroom potential into workplace skills shows a company’s commitment and investment in a prospective employee. It puts the intern ahead of the curve in finding that first job. However, a different company in another community may be cashing in on that investment.
“Internships can sometimes miss one thing,” says Shelle Randall, Director of Workforce Development and Existing Industries at Jonesboro Unlimited (JU), “You have the interns in your community for only a couple of months in most cases. We want to get them to feel at home, even if it is for just a short while.”
Jonesboro companies bring in dozens of college interns each summer. JU believes it’s a perfect opportunity to sell Jonesboro as an enriching place to live if that job offer comes after graduation. That’s why JU hosts its Get To Know Jonesboro (GTKJB) program. The goal is to spend a day with the interns, showing them places and things uniquely Jonesboro.
This year, 24 interns from Frito-Lay, Hytrol, FMH Conveyors, and Law Firm Waddell, Cole, and Jones came along for the ride.
The day involves stops at a locally-owned coffee roaster, lunch, a look at Jonesboro’s history, Craighead Forest Park, and breaking a sweat playing laser tag. Fun all around, with a dash of charity work thrown in. The interns packed 9,600 meals at the Food Bank of Northeast Arkansas. A favorite part of the day for several participants.
Rachel Verhoef from Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania was touched by the impact of volunteering at the Food Bank, "This experience showed me just how much everyone in this community truly cares for each other no matter their status and are driven to provide all resources to those who are in dire need."
Craig Rickert, JU’s Director of Communication, emphasized that Jonesboro is a city that has a giving heart and always answers the call when there is a need. He let the interns know if a job offer follows their internships and they move to Jonesboro, they will become part of a special community.
“The biggest misconception I had of the town was that Jonesboro is just a college town,” said Anderson Creshale, an Industrial Engineering student from Mississippi interning at Hytrol, “Although it is still a college town, the town now feels more like a comfortable place to settle down in than a wild town for college students.”
The latest GTKJB tour was the third year JU hosted the interns, an expansion of the original GTKJB program that started in 2018 and continues today. On those tours, JU hosts industry professionals who recently moved to Jonesboro. Those tours take place in the Spring and the Fall.
“Whether they’ve already been hired or that new job is on the horizon, it’s really important to connect with your new community as much as your cubicle!” Randall said, smiling.
There’s evidence the program is working. Christy Valentine, Manager of Academic Partnerships at Hytrol, says they’ve hired four engineers from their intern program in the last two years. Three of the four came from out of state. She says making them feel welcomed outside the office makes them feel much more at home.
“It really gives them a head start,” Valentine said.
JU believes GTKJB is as much about employee retention as it is about workforce development. By helping a newcomer or a future newcomer to settle in with some local knowledge already in place, the likelihood of that person building a life in Jonesboro can span years.
That’s how you establish a strong workforce that moves from generation to generation instead of job to job.