Internships, job shadowing could address shortage of younger workers in Aroostook

Posted Aug. 18, 2013, at 5:40 a.m.

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — The Education to Industry Summit held earlier this month may have ended, but its impact sure hasn’t.

Employers and educators from all over Aroostook County gathered on Aug. 6 at the University of Maine at Presque Isle campus for a candid discussion on the looming crisis awaiting the area if it doesn’t get more workers in the 18-44-year-old range. Right now, only 29 percent of The County’s workforce is between that particular age bracket, and economic development strategists agree that anything below 30 percent is unsustainable.

The summit focused on the positive impact that internships and job shadowing experiences can have on youths. Corroborating that premise were three interns from Presque Isle-based MMG Insurance Co., who shed light on how their foray into the professional world has influenced their future careers, their outlook on education and their perspective on the professional world.

Cameron Anderson, Kyle Corrigan and Chris Nadeau, all of Caribou, experienced their first internships this summer and believe that exposing high school students to a world of internships and job shadowing opportunities would be beneficial.

“Exposure to the great jobs that we have in Aroostook County will hopefully help retain the 18-44-year-old workforce in the next five to 10 years,” said Corrigan, emphasizing his belief that it’s critical the region start the exposure process as soon as possible, as there are over 2,000 jobs projected to be available in Aroostook County within the next five years.

Like many college students — and like his fellow-intern Nadeau — Corrigan changed his major after freshman year, swapping a degree in athletic training for one in business administration. Nadeau initially thought he wanted a degree in biology, but after a few biology and chemistry courses, he realized finance was better suited for his passions.

“Allowing young students to shadow a variety of jobs could help them decide what they would like to study before attending college,” Nadeau said. “It can also show them that there are quality jobs in Aroostook County in a variety of industries.”

Anderson has consistently pursued a degree in business with a minor in construction management, but he’s seen a lot of friends and fellow students switch their majors. He said that many of them chose a major based on what they perceived would yield a high-income job without paying attention to the level of schooling required, and others realized that either they had no interest in their selected field — or that there was no demand for their area of study.

“One thing I knew for sure was that I didn’t want to be a student that got a year into my education and had to switch majors,” Anderson said. He comes from a family of entrepreneurs and, as he didn’t precisely have his career path figured out at 18 years old, he chose a field of study that would provide him with a range of opportunities and the skills desired by employers in a tough job market.

While Anderson and Nadeau still have a couple of semesters to go before they don those iconic mortarboards next spring, Corrigan is ready to jump into the workforce. He recently accepted a full-time position with the very company he interned with.

A recent University of Maine at Presque Isle graduate with a bachelors’ degree in business administration and a minor in management, Corrigan said that his internship affected him in many positive ways.

“I now have a sense of professionalism that you can not learn in the classroom,” he cited, adding that his workplace immersion also allowed him to link his degree with a successful company. “The experience was everything I expected and was an excellent way for me to familiarize myself with MMG and their insurance practices.”

Corrigan’s first foray into the professional world comes at an optimal postgraduation time.

Anderson will be a senior at the University of Maine at Orono this fall and has expressed that the far-reaching effects of his summer internship bridged both the professional workplace and academia.

“My internship at MMG has changed the way I approach my studies because I now have experience to reference as I learn concepts in the classroom,” he explained. As for Anderson’s career pursuits, he said that the real world skills he gained this summer will only add to his drive for success.

“It has opened my eyes to the opportunities that I have before me and has inspired me to continue to work hard,” Anderson said.

Nadeau’s experiences were equally inspiring, and as the business major prepares for his senior year at the University of Maine at Orono, he’ll carry with him the vastly broadened knowledge of the insurance industry and what it’s like to work in a professional setting.

“Before coming to MMG I had no idea what I wanted to do after graduating college, but now I can say that I have some vision on what type of career I would like to pursue and where I’d like to be,” he said.

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