- Associated Press - Monday, February 24, 2014

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - Companies are making use of cost-sharing programs for hiring interns in North Dakota’s competitive job environment.

Two of those cost-sharing programs are the federally-funded Students in Technology Transfer And Research program, through the North Dakota Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, and the state funded Operation Intern through the North Dakota Department of Commerce.

Elizabeth Jung, program coordinator for ND EPSCoR, said the Students in Technology Transfer And Research Program is for companies statewide but is most commonly used by companies in the eastern half of the state. Registration for the program is presently open.

Jung told The Bismarck Tribune (https://bit.ly/1oHHdpp ) that most participants are repeat companies and she is seeking new companies to participate.

More than 98 companies have participated in the Students in Technology Transfer and Research Program since its inception. Many of those companies from the western half of the state listed as participants said they participated in the past or don’t remember doing it.

Steffes Corp. in Dickinson is a previous STTAR participant but has switched to doing more with Operation Intern. That program focuses most of its funding on Gov. Jack Dalrymple’s targeted industries like technology, tourism, and value-added agriculture. Internships have to be new, not repeat internships, and funding is awarded on a first come, first served basis.

Operation Intern co-funded 366 internships from 2011-13, with an allocated $900,000. The allocation for 2013-15 is $1.5 million and Beth Zander, director of workforce development with the Commerce Department, projects about 500 internships will be co-funded in the biennium.

Steffes’ President Joe Rothschiller said any program helps. The company brings in interns year round and especially in the summer. He said the cost-sharing programs allow more than one or two interns. So the company can have at least three engineering interns in the summer along with business interns.

Steffes Corp. is a manufacturer of metal products in multiple industries, including agriculture and energy.

“We like to do internships,” Rothschiller said. “It helps that student to understand the business climate. It’s also a great recruitment tool for us.”

Rothschiller said 75 percent of the Steffes hires have been previous engineering interns.

Most of Steffes’ business interns come from Dickinson State University. Engineering interns come mostly from North Dakota State University or South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City, S.D.

When students come from farther away distances, like from Fargo or out of state, Rothschiller said, Steffes tries to hire juniors and seniors who are closer to graduation.

To some degree, Rothschiller said, the programs help Steffes cover its workload.

“Certainly we’re all shorthanded,” he said. “We would hire five engineers right now if we could. We have 30 positions open companywide.”

Rothschiller said it isn’t a money issue but a matter of helping students, recruiting and getting work done. He said students get to experience a variety of engineering fields, including mechanical, electrical, industrial and manufacturing.

“They’re not coming to just see one field,” he said. “We want it to be meaningful. They’re getting real life experience.”

Interns may be tasked to submit three designs for a new product or help create a process for making a product from start to finish.

Jung said STTAR is perfect for students going to school in Fargo but living in other parts of the state in the summer.

Rothschiller said the challenge now is finding housing or getting locals to come back for the summer if they are living somewhere else during the school year.

To participate in STTAR, companies must show students will make a contribution to company performance or products in science and technology fields.

Past projects included engineering, design and testing of new products, analysis of computer systems and development of software, remote sensing and automated mapping, chemical research and development of automated fabrication equipment.

The project must be based in science, engineering, or mathematics. The primary emphasis of STTAR is on research and development rather than sales and marketing.

Funding is available for up to 25 students through STTAR. Companies pay at least half the students’ salaries. STTAR positions are posted in the Cooperative Education Offices on each of the North Dakota University System campuses.

“The EPSCoR programs, STTAR and FITT (Faculty in Technology Transfer), helped share the risk in a brand new area for us - working with the universities,” Don Hedger, president of Killdeer Mountain Manufacturing Inc. in Killdeer, said in a statement. “The students and professor are providing the knowledge and skills we need to reach our project goals. They are contributing so much to our projects, it’s hard to imagine doing this without them.”

Killdeer Mountain Manufacturing is a contract manufacturer of electronic circuit board assemblies, cables, harnesses, and ground support equipment, its website says.


Information from: Bismarck Tribune, https://www.bismarcktribune.com

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