WORTHINGTON — A group of Worthington business leaders met Wednesday morning to learn from Stacy Fricke, human resources manager at Bedford Industries, about how to create more internship and job shadowing opportunities.

Julie Foote introduced the seminar as an effort to "keep our youth and our talent in our area."

Fricke consulted with other major Worthington employers — including New Vision Co-op, Prairie Holdings Group, JBS and First State Bank Southwest — as she prepared for her presentation. She shared with the group strategies that Bedford and the other firms have found effective in securing interns and subsequently hiring them after they graduate.

Fricke stated that Bedford has had some success in creating internships for positions for which the company has a hard time hiring. If students are exposed to that particular job before graduating, they may decide to pursue that career path and apply for the full-time position after they graduate.

After creating internship positions, the next step is to advertise for them, Fricke said. She recommended that interested employers attend career fairs at colleges and universities that have a lot of students in the desired field, adding that career fair visits are most effective if a current employee attends who holds the position being scouted for — it's a bonus if the employee also studied at that school.

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She advised advertising for internships at least two or three months in advance. Students like to have assurance in advance that they will have a summer job, so they can make living arrangements if needed.

Although in some fields it's become the trend to offer only unpaid internships, Fricke pointed out that if an intern is given tasks that a regular employee would do, then they should be paid. The various firms to which Fricke reached out use different methods of determining compensation, but they do all pay their interns.

A smart way to fill intern positions, Fricke said, is to make sure current employees and customers know about the opportunities. Word of mouth is still an effective job search tool, and often friends and relatives of employees end up filling internship slots.

Fricke added that it's important to consider what everyday life will be like for an intern both at work and after work.

"We want to sell not only our company, but Worthington," she said.

Chamber members are able to use the services of the community concierge, Katie Kouba, who helps folks transition into life in Worthington and shows them what there is to do here. Since the goal is to entice people to move to Worthington permanently after graduation, they have to have a good time during their internship.

If a high school student is interested in exploring a career, then a job shadow is often more appropriate than an internship, Fricke said. Usually a job shadow entails a day or two of following around a current employee and seeing what their job entails. These opportunities can help high-schoolers decide where to apply for college and which major they might want to pursue. They can always return for an internship after a couple years of school, if they are still interested.

All agreed that Worthington has plenty of opportunities for young people to settle down, and creating more internships is one way to bring in those young professionals fresh out of college.