Attracting, retaining and engaging young talent: Quad Cities Chamber connects with MCRP interns
April 9, 2013
ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. -- An attractive community prepared for growth, situated next to the mighty Mississippi River -- that's the Illinois/Iowa Quad Cities.
The Illinois/Iowa Quad Cities consist of Bettendorf and Davenport (Iowa); Moline, East Moline and Rock Island (Illinois). With more than 400,000 residents in its metropolitan area, the Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce represents the largest 300-mile market west of Chicago.
Even with such an impressive footprint, you might run for your map when you hear "Quad Cities"-- that's commonplace for Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce but they take it in stride.
Anne Spoden, communications coordinator for the QC Chamber, explains their mission. "The Quad Cities Chamber's mission is to strengthen and enhance the business environment, represent the interests of our members, and foster balanced growth in the Quad Cities region."
They pull out all the stops to educate and attract potential residents, including temporary residents.
One of the Quad Cities largest employers, the Rock Island Arsenal, sponsors 10 and 15 week internships welcoming students participating in the Minority College Relations Program to the government workforce and local community.
Specifically co-sponsored by the Army Sustainment Command and Joint Munitions Command, the MCRP develops collaborative programs within the commands, allowing minority serving institutions (Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Tribal Colleges and Hispanic serving institutions) to participate in the programs and enhancing the future readiness of each command through these partnerships.
The MCRP typically welcomes dozens of student interns to Rock Island Arsenal twice each year.
Just because the student interns call the Quad Cities home for just a short period of time doesn't negate their importance to Chamber leaders like Kristin Glass, Vice President, Investor Relations.
According to Glass, "The Chamber and The Network, our young professionals group, have actively engaged the MCRP interns in the past. Typically, a staff member will come speak to each new group of interns. The MCRP interns' involvement in Chamber events and the community directly aligns with the Chamber and The Network's priorities to attract, retain and engage young talent."
Actively engaging the interns is time well spent with some interns returning to the Quad Cities for temporary student work programs or permanent employment.
Chamber leaders know global employment opportunities are now well within reach leaving students often weighing many options before landing their first jobs. Both Glass and Spoden strive to leave a lasting impression with the students.
This intern session brings students to the QC representing four very different Southern states: Texas, N.C., Ark., and Ala.
And likewise, five distinct universities -- the University of Texas at El Paso; the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff; Alabama A&M University; Prairie View A&M University and North Carolina A&T State University.
"The interns offer a young, diverse perspective to the strengths and weaknesses of our community. These young professionals are the future of our community and can help shape it," said Glass.
In addition to initial meet and greets with the students during their orientation session, the Chamber recently sponsored the 13 interns as guests at the March 19 Quad City Mallards minor league professional hockey game. Along with the action of the game, students enjoyed a relaxing atmosphere meeting and networking with other QC professionals.
For current MCRP intern Sandy Favela, a junior at the University of Texas at El Paso, arriving from Texas to the Quad Cities is a rewarding adjustment.
"Although I was not used to wearing thick layers of clothing to work every day, I am happy I got to intern in the Quad Cities. Not many people in my age group have the opportunity to live this experience. Looking outside my bedroom window and seeing the snow-covered roofs and trees was priceless.
"Riding 'The Loop'* to explore downtown attractions was fun. People here are very nice. They are happy to assist when we need direction or have questions.
"In addition, the fact that the Quad Cities Chamber took the initiative and time to reserve special seats for us to attend the Mallards game made us feel appreciated. Meeting and chatting with them while having complimentary appetizers and refreshments created a great atmosphere," said Favela.
"We see great value in engaging young and emerging professionals in networking opportunities and the many quality of life amenities the Quad Cities has to offer. The benefit of inviting the MCRP interns to attend an event as our guest outweighs the cost to our organization. It is our hope that these young professionals will consider the Quad Cities as their long term home," said Spoden.
Students participate in the Minority College Relations Program at RIA for a specific amount of time with no guarantee of permanent placement; however, it isn't a stretch of the imagination to see them again in the future.
With a favorable view of the Quad Cities, one former MCRP intern did return. For Huntsville-native and Alabama A&M University graduate Jeremiah Haley, his initial 15 week internship provided the spark needed to come back to the Quad Cities for a bit longer.
Haley relocated to the Quad Cities for another student work program following his Spring 2011 MCRP internship, despite other offers.
Now an electrical engineer at Teledyne Brown Engineering (Huntsville, Ala.), Haley still speaks favorably of his time in the Midwest. "I absolutely loved the city and everything it had to offer. It was much more diverse than where I came from and I loved that," said Haley.
For Spoden and Glass, people like Haley make selling the Quad Cities easy but they continue their mission assuring students there are reasons to return to the Quad Cities.
"The Quad Cities region is a community over 400,000 people. As a region we have many of the amenities of several other cities.
The Quad Cities has a wide array of educational opportunities, shopping, night life, cultural opportunities, and museums to offer," said Glass.
(Editor's Note: Kristin Glass, Anne Spoden and Jeremiah Haley contributed to this article via e-mail.)
*'The Loop' is a fully accessible bus providing frequent service to downtown Quad Cities attractions and other popular area destinations.*