Two Vermillion companies are among 30 throughout the state that are receiving grants from the governor�s Office of Economic Development to create internships through the Dakota Seeds program.
Mesaba and Polaris Industries are participating in the program, which will create 80 internships statewide.
This is Mesaba�s �third or fourth year� of participation, said Heath Johnson, vice president of marketing and operations.
�Overall, I can�t say enough about the program,� Johnson said. �It�s not only good from an educational standpoint, but it�s great for South Dakota businesses to have a tool like that to help them � promote internships.�
The grants provide funding to cover up to one half of the internship�s wages, with a maximum of $2,000 for undergraduate or graduate student internships, $8,000 for master�s degree students and $10,000 for Ph.D. students.
The goal of Dakota Seeds is to help in-state companies find employees, and students find in-state jobs.
Johnson said the majority of interns at Mesaba are mechanical engineering students from the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, South Dakota State University and the University of Nebraska at Lincoln.
�We bring them in and we have them kind of shadow some of our existing mechanical engineers on-site, and then they work for the summer here,� he said. �By the last month of their internship, we try to get them working on actual, live projects.�
Many of the interns go on to find employment at Mesaba, Johnson said.
�We�ve had a very high success rate in terms of bringing in our interns and offering them full-time employment afterward,� he said. �This year is actually a pretty good example of that, because the summer of 2010 we had two interns that were working for us, and we offered one of them a position.�
This is one of the main objectives of Dakota Seeds. Of the program�s participants who have gone on to graduate, 35 percent have returned to the business where they served as an intern.
�We�re very proud of that statistic,� said Commissioner J. Pat Costello in a press release. �It shows Dakota Seeds is doing just what it is supposed to do. It�s creating job opportunities that are keeping our young people here, and providing businesses with the talent they need to continue to prosper.�
Johnson said one thing he noticed among the interns he has met is that while they may have come from South Dakota, they went to college elsewhere.
�A lot of times we find that they�re actively working on how to get back home, so to speak,� he said.
For that reason, Johnson said Mesaba has utilized different programs to attract employees to � or back to � the southeast corner of the state.
�Mesaba is the kind of company that believes in internships in a very big way, just because it helps students understand what they�ll be doing when they get off in the real life, as well as what it takes to be successful in their job,� he said. �But also, it almost enables Mesaba as a company to test-drive employees a little bit, as well, and see whether they�d be a successful employee or resource going forward.�
Dakota Seeds grants are funded by a partnership between the governor�s Office of Economic Development and the National Science Foundation�s Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research and approved quarterly by the Workforce Development Council.
A call made to Polaris Industries was not returned as of press time.