Cedar Rapids program helps attract young professionals to the community

Summer interns learn about life outside work

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Three days in a leadership program for summer interns connecting them to the community may be the secret to attracting and keeping young professionals working in the Creative Corridor.

The Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance’s Leadership for Five Seasons College and Intern Program wrapped up Thursday with 23 interns and college students. The program is designed around three key days to play, work and live.

In all, 40 participants from 17 employers participated in this year’s program.

Ellen Bardsley, talent acquisition specialist at the Metro Economic Alliance, said the program helps interns make a more informed decision on where to look for their first job and can put Corridor businesses on the list.

“I think it’s important to give them a taste of what it would be like to be here as a young professional,” Bardsley said. “They have to have a job and they have to work.

“We also found they wanted to know about fun things to do in the area. If we’re talking about creating that talent pipeline and really driving people to live in Iowa’s Creative Corridor post-graduation, they have to experience it a little bit while they’re here.”

During the “play” day of the program, participants can tour local museums, Indian Creek Nature Center and locally-owned restaurants. Representatives of major Corridor employers, such as Rockwell Collins, and entrepreneurs spoke to interns on the program’s “work” day.

OPN Architects intern Lenora Allen said that helped her learn about career opportunities in the Corridor.

On Thursday, the “live” day of the program, interns were shown how to invest in the community through leadership and volunteer efforts. They also toured the recently renovated Mott Lofts on Seventh Avenue SW.

Landon Burg, architect at OPN Architects, said working at a company that focused on giving back to the community through volunteer efforts or opportunities to become a leader in the community was something he missed at his last job.

“Getting up and going to work was easy, but coming home at the end of the day, trying to find, ‘Did I make a difference? Did I do something that has value?’ (was not),” Burg said.

And volunteering had other paybacks.

“You expand your network,” Burg said. “You find new friends that maybe you didn’t think you needed before. Once you get involved and find more people, you find more people that maybe should be your friend.”

For Kirstin Eddins, director of marketing at TrueNorth, investing in a community beyond work is part of being a responsible resident.

“I don’t believe I should expect the community to give something back to me if I’m not willing to do the same,” she said. “If I have an expectation of the school system or if I have an expectation of the library, what am I doing to help give? What am I involved in, making my personal deposits when I’m expecting something back?”

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