Kankakee Valley REMC (KVREMC), a non-profit electric distribution cooperative, began an intern program with the help of Indiana Electric Cooperatives (IEC) last year. IEC recognized the value of showing younger generations how a co-op functions and why working for one can be so beneficial.
“When Kankakee Valley REMC expressed an interest in starting an internship program, we helped their staff create a program that met the needs of the cooperative and its potential interns,” said Ann Mears, Youth and Partnership Development Manager at IEC. “This meant working through job descriptions, setting expectations, reviewing best practices, and more.”
IEC helped KV REMC promote the availability of internships though a statewide internship employer and student linking resource called IndianaINTERN.net.
This year, KVREMC chose to hire an intern for their information technology (IT) department. Amanda Steeb, Communications and Marketing Director at KVREMC, explained their intense drive to help the community through initiatives like their current intern program.
“With the support of IEC, Kankakee Valley REMC was able to develop an internship program that met the cooperatives needs, and created an opportunity for students to take their textbook lessons and apply them to real business applications. We want to promote co-op jobs to college-age students and show them the unique difference of our organization and how they can play a critical role,” Steeb said. “When interning at Kankakee Valley REMC, the students become part of our co-op team and I think that’s something that makes the entire experience very real and worthwhile for them.”
Along with teaching the many benefits of working for a co-op, the internship program also provides the student (in this case, Purdue student Nathan Grant of Hebron) with valuable experience by involving him in projects and teaching new things about real-world business.
“One of the biggest takeaways that I’m learning from this internship is how a business climate functions, which is extremely valuable for a college-level intern,” Grant said. “With IT specifically, I’m learning the scale of what IT departments are typically supposed to do, and how they manage an office full of devices.”
Grant shared a few things that have stood out to him about his internship experience so far.
“My role of supporting the IT supervisors has been great. I love that I was able to transition into my role easily because of the smaller nature of the company,” Grant said. “My favorite activity to do in this position is troubleshooting with my supervisors. I really enjoy the process of going through a problem, bouncing ideas off of each other and working together to find a solution to whatever problem we’re having that day.”
Brandon Sutter, IT Manager at KVREMC, is one of Grant’s supervisors and was also part of the initial hiring process.
“When it came to selecting an intern, we weren’t overly focused on technical skillset or experience because of the nature of a college-level internship. Instead, we took a more personality-based approach,” Sutter said. “Although we were looking for traits like effort and accountability, we were mainly looking for identifying the passion – if they have that, the rest can follow.”
Kankakee Valley REMC plans to accept interns into their program each year, one intern at a time annually for now, so they are able to give individual attention and direct insight to each intern they choose to onboard.
“I think this has been as much of a learning experience for me as it has been for our intern. My mentality has shifted from a ‘how can I use this person to help complete our task and project list’ to ‘what can I do to help this person down the right path to become successful in IT.’” Sutter said.
To learn more about KV REMC and the many ways they assist in bettering the NWI’s youth, please visit https://www.kvremc.com/community-programs/youth-programs.