Keeping local talent from leaving the area is important to the future of Blair County.
"We have an obligation to make sure we retain our best and brightest for the future of our area. It is one of the things we haven't done well and we need to start doing real well," Altoona Regional Health System Chief Operating Officer Ron McConnell said. "We are getting smarter and trying to help our local businesses and to start businesses up the I-99 corridor. Once you start that business, the bigger our obligation becomes to train the best and brightest to stay here."
The Altoona Blair County Development Corp.'s Blair County Executive Internship Program has that goal in mind.
Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec)
Tom Seasoltz (left) consults with Matt Fox, marketing manager at Altoona Blair County Development Corp., 3900 Industrial Park Drive, Altoona. Seasoltz, a former intern at the private nonprofit development corporation, was hired as a financial analyst after he completed his internship.
The program was created to directly address the issue of retaining talented and educated Blair County young adults.
"We think this program is critical; it gives the students who are involved in the program an opportunity to learn about the career opportunities that could be available in this area," ABCD President and CEO Martin J. Marasco said. "It is our hope that they can be successful enough through their work relationship that it could become a permanent work opportunity in the future."
McConnell thinks it is an excellent program.
"This is a way to identify, mentor and retain the best and brightest, that is why this program is so good and valuable," he said. "We've been participating in it for years."
Any college student is eligible for the program as long as he meet a list of requirements, including having graduated from a Blair County high school.
From 2003 to 2010, 175 people have been accepted into the program. There are currently 26 people who went through the program who are employed in the region at various professional companies, and there are at least 20 who are still in college or graduate school, ABCD Marketing Manager Matt Fox said.
Anne Stoltz, who was recently promoted to the position of marketing and insurance contracts manager at Altoona Regional Health System, participated in the program during the summer of 2004 in the marketing department of then Altoona Hospital.
"It gave me real world experience and the opportunity to apply some of the knowledge that I had learned in the classroom to tasks at the hospital," Stoltz said. "It allowed me to network with people in the field and led to a full-time job once I graduated."
The Blair County Chamber of Commerce has been a participant in the program.
"ABCD has found a good niche with their internship program," Chamber President and CEO Joe Hurd said. "We are doing things we can do to identify ways to make our young people aware of the opportunities not just in Blair County but [also] the region."
The Chamber hired Adrienne Weyandt (now Eichenlaub) as business development coordinator after she participated in the internship program.
"It was a great opportunity. They had some great networking events that were helpful especially if you wanted to stay around the region. It enabled me to make a transition between school and the workforce," said Eichenlaub, now regional tourism program manager for the Alleghenies Tourism Council.
Tom Seasoltz participated in the program during the summers of 2008 and 2009 at ABCD Corp. before being hired as a financial analyst/technology assistant.
"It gave you a serious look behind the scenes inside the business community. School can only teach you so much; it was good to get some real world experience," Seasoltz said. "It allowed me to interact with business community leaders in central Pennsylvania. It enables you to meet a lot of influential people and to build relationships to help with your career."
The internship program has been successful at Roaring Spring Water.
Tim Crawford, a 2006 graduate of Hollidaysburg Area Senior High School and now a student at St. Francis University, started as an intern and is now working part time at the company while finishing his masters degree in business administration.
"It gave me an opportunity to work for a good company. I got a lot of great experience," Crawford said.
"It gave me the opportunity to explore some different fields in business and work in the community. I was able to use the skills that I learned in the classroom," said Crawford, who worked on the company's new website and Facebook page.
"We have always hired students to work in our business. This helps us and gives the students some money to help pay for their schooling," company President Dan Hoover said. "It is a win-win situation, we have always enjoyed that."
There are a limited number of scholarships available for 2011, and students must submit their applications by April 30. Anyone interested in the program should contact Fox at 944-6113 or email mattf@ abcdcorp.org.
Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.