Connecting Tech Interns to Feed the Job Pipeline for Nevada County Companies
One of the biggest challenges tech companies in Nevada County face is finding qualified talent to fill technical positions. Experienced engineers who are interested in moving to Nevada County are often close to retirement age, and don’t stay long at the companies that bring them here. The key is attracting a younger demographic, which is one reason many of our local tech companies offer internships. It’s easier to imagine a move to a small, rural county if you haven’t already bought a house and started a family somewhere else. And, new graduates have just been trained in the latest technology. AJA Video Systems is a strong believer in the value of interns. “Bringing them up to speed isn’t that hard,” says Bob Hudelson, who coordinates AJA’s internship program. “Interns have been our main method of growing the company.”
Unfortunately, college-age engineering students who don’t know anyone else in our county may find it isolating and, frankly, boring compared to a big city experience. Hudelson had an idea for a way to make it fun, and to make sure those interns want to come back to Nevada County.
Last year several video companies invited their interns to a Society of Motion Picture & Television Engineers (SMPTE) event, where they got to see their video equipment in action at a production facility in Roseville. When Hudelson saw all of the young engineers at the event who were previously unaware of each other’s existence, he saw an opportunity to help them connect with each other both professionally and socially. The challenge? As Hudelson put it: “How do we force them to interact?”
This year AJA, Grass Valley (a Belden Brand), and Telestream joined forces to host fun lunch time events for 30 of the tech interns in the county, followed by a suggestion to attend a local event in the evening. Playing on teams together would get them to talk to each other, and then they would have a chance to engage in a more natural social interaction later that evening. They would also be introduced to one of the fun things Nevada County has to offer. Telestream kicked off the program by inviting the interns to play volleyball, and then encouraged them to attend the Summer Nights celebration in Nevada City that evening. AJA took the interns bowling and told them about the Thursday Night market in Grass Valley. And Grass Valley (a Belden Brand) finished off the summer with a rousing game of miniature golf at the 49er Fun Park, followed by an evening at the Nevada County Fair. Next year they plan to add outdoor activities to the mix.
Hudelson thinks it’s working: “Because of the positive experience in Nevada County, they are more interested in employment offers,” he said. Jared Lunt, who is finishing up his second year as an intern at AJA, found another intern to play basketball with through the program. “I love the people and the friendliness,” he said. “It’s different from Southern California, where I live.” Dylan Kohler, an intern at Telestream, sees a lot of value in the program. “We didn’t know anyone at AJA or Grass Valley before these events,” he said. “Now that I know what my options are, I want to come back.”