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MEDP Spark- Interns Adapt to a Changing World

Jul 16, 2020

MEDP Spark, Volume 5, Issue 6 -- July 2020

2020 intern cohortMcMinnville Works Interns gather at their first in person professional development workshop on June 24th, 2020

The summer heat is hitting McMinnville, and jobs and internships have been impacted around the country as the Coronavirus continues to alter the landscape of everyday life. Thankfully, at McMinnville Economic Development Partnership (MEDP), we did not have to cancel our annual McMinnville WORKS Summer Internship Program, instead we adapted.  

The McMinnville Works internship program was established in 2013 to provide connections between local businesses and young professionals. MEDP connects with prospective local companies in the fall to host interns for the summer program. The nine week program consists of project-based internships that are, full-time, paid positions. Over the course of the summer, the interns are offered weekly professional development workshops that are facilitated by MEDP, and our own summer intern. For students to be considered for an internship through this program they only have to submit one application that we then disperse to several host companies. Each company then sets up interviews and makes its own hiring decisions. 

At the start of our application process in January, we were planning on filling 28 intern positions at companies throughout McMinnville via the McMinnville Works and Career Bound programs. We connected with our 2020 Host sites on March 3rd to exchange information so they could begin to schedule interviews and start the hiring process. Shortly thereafter, Oregon, along with the rest of the Nation and the World began to realize the effects of the 2020 curveball that is Covid-19.    

In light of entering a world wide pandemic, several of our host sites were left trying to navigate hiring freezes, socially distanced work spaces, reduced hours, and a myriad of other unexpected scenarios brought on by Covid-19. As a result, our 2020 program is a bit smaller than anticipated,  however, we are fortunate to still have 13 interns at 8 host sites around the city. Though this year has certainly seen some unforeseen challenges, we are looking forward to growing the program in 2021, and most of the potential host sites we’ve connected with are eager to participate next year.

We knew the McMinnville Works Program, along with most plans and activities, would need to be modified and would look a little different this year. Our Internship Coordinator, Shannon Stoller said, “Going into my role, I was excited to have my first internship experience. I envisioned going into the office every day, finding the flow of things, and interacting with my fellow co-workers and getting to know the interns participating in the program." But, with the onset of Covid-19, that vision immediately changed.

"Essentially everything is different than I anticipated." Shannon said. "I’ve had to work remotely and pivot the weekly professional development workshops into a hybrid format, using Zoom as a virtual meeting space supplemented with a few in-person workshops. I’ve had adjust our intern gatherings to implement safety and physical distancing guidelines... The upside of this unpredictable environment as a young professional is that my mentality has shifted to be very flexible and expect things to change. I have learned how valuable it is to adapt and to keep things moving forward.”

Shannon Presenting at workshop
MEDP Internship Coordinator Shannon Stoller introduces speakers during a workshop at Mac Market in late June

Shannon went on to say “With just a few weeks of the McMinnville Works internship program left, I am feeling very fortunate to have been able to lead and direct a group of young professionals like myself during a time filled with uncertainty. The moments of having to pivot scheduled programming, and establish extra procedures were frustrating, but at the end of the day, I still helped to manage a successful internship program, and working through these extra hiccups has been a rewarding challenge.” She also acknowledged that  “each of us involved in the program will be walking away with new connections, a positive working experience, and more confidence as we move forward knowing that we completed a summer internship in the midst of a global pandemic.” 

Over the years we have come to realize that the real value of this program can be found in the personal connections that interns and local business leaders make with one another. Overall, we knew that moving workshops online and the lack of in-person networking opportunities could pose a threat to this core element, and we recognized that creating a space where the participating interns could all develop personal business relations skills was still a priority for us.  As the Works intern coordinator, Shannon was tasked with keeping our program interactive, engaging and fun, even in a remote setting. 

Estefan Rivera, an intern with the  City of McMinnville Engineering Department, had this to say about his experience with the program’s virtual workshops “I think they’re really good. However, on Zoom the flow of conversation feels more formal.” We noticed this too, and have tried to schedule in a bit more time during each workshop for fun icebreakers and giving the interns a bit of free time to interact and get to chat with each other before we dive into the professional development side of things.

Zoom GreetersMcMinnville Works Interns hosting  a virtual Greeters for the McMinnville Area Chamber of Commerce

By mid June, we were all very excited to meet the interns in person, and after getting feedback from the interns, their supervisors and our staff, we started to put protocols in place to bring the cohort together for an in-person workshop. Shannon quickly realized how coordinating an in-person event while being mindful of current health and safety guidelines would entail a bit more attention to detail than the previous virtual workshops.  She had to be extra conscious about making sure the locations had enough space to accommodate physical distancing guidelines, and had to be prepared to make adjustments for interns who were unable to physically make it to the in person gatherings. There were also additional details, like creating health and safety waivers, making sure we had ample face coverings for everyone in attendance, as well as plenty of hand sanitizer, clean pens, and that everyone was following the statewide recommendations.  

The interns are not the only ones having to adapt to a new environment this summer.  All of the participating  host companies have had to strategize new ways to on-board employees, maintain physical distance in the workplace, as well as adapting to new safety precautions. Deven Paolo, a local business leader and owner of Solid Form Fabrication is a veteran of the McMinnville WORKS and Career Bound Programs and he said, “The transitions we’ve dealt with due to COVID have mostly been to increase safety and awareness.”  Solid Form Fabrication has a team that is inspired to keep projects and production moving forward, and the company has created new habits to keep everyone as safe and productive as possible. Some adjustments are small, such as implementing a no carpooling rule when visiting job sites. Of course, face coverings and physical distancing on the floor and at each job site is also a key to their success. Deven credits his team for continuing to keep their positive energy day in and day out with the circumstances being uncertain. He has  built an environment where employees feel supported and can forge their own path within the company. 

Over the years we have really come to value Deven’s insights on leadership within our community and especially in his work with youth entering the skilled trades. When asked he said, “I think my role as a leader is to make sure I’m listening to the needs of the team and leading with optimism. There have been many ups and downs in recent months, but there are still many things to be thankful for.” Deven’s positivity and compassion for his team are the backbone of the company, and we are thrilled that he continues to be a great role model and resource for the interns in our program. In a few weeks Deven will be leading a professional development workshop for us focused on project management. 

Deven Paolo giving a tourDeven Paolo leading a professional development workshop for the McMinnville Works interns in 2017.

Overall, this group of exceptional interns involved in our summer program have put themselves in a position to succeed with the ever changing rules and regulations that encompass our world. When asked about how the McMinnville WORKS program has supported interns during the Pandemic, Rayna Weinreb, a two time McMinnville WORKS intern said, “MEDP has given me a job when there were no jobs available and provided me with great networking resources.”  When talking about her latest WORKS internship as Swedemom’s executive assistant, she described how fortunate she feels being able to participate in the program for a second consecutive year, and how much value she has found working in McMinnville. “Since I’m working with a nonprofit I get to see a lot of community gathering and support. I was really surprised at how much the community has come together in these trying times. Surprised and amazed”. Once her internship concludes Rayna plans on continuing her career endeavors in the McMinnville area. 

Workforce Development has always been at the core of what we do at MEDP, and is at the heart of why we started the McMinnville Works program 13 years ago. We love hearing stories like this, of young professionals who have developed their skills here, and who are excited grow in our community and contribute to the local workforce. 

Though we are unable to predict the future, we assume that we’ll be seeing and discussing the effects of this global pandemic for years to come. The internships being completed this summer might have looked a little different than expected,but we are confident this group of young professionals will be proud to say they were able to make the most of their experience this summer. Jamae Stewart, an administrative intern with the City of McMinnville said “I am very thankful that my internship wasn’t cancelled because of COVID and very impressed with how we are adapting to our situation; making ourselves and others health and safety a priority.” She also mentioned that her participation in the McMinnville WORKS program has made her internship more meaningful despite the challenges. “Shannon is doing a great job communicating within the interns. She has planned fun events for us, and is making sure our weekly meetings are fun and knowledgeable.”

The opportunity to capitalize on having an internship experience during COVID is an advantage for any professional entering the workforce. With an environment that demands constant adjustments, adaptability and little bit of grace, these interns will be ready to face whatever is next. (And we bet they’ll show up wearing a smile, even if it's hidden under a face mask.)  

If you would like to learn more about becoming involved next year as a host site for WORKS or Career Bound interns, please reach out to ,  visit the program pages for  McMinnville WORKS  and Career Bound, or give us a call. 503.474.6814



We would like to extend a big thank you to the host sites and guest speakers who have contributed their leadership and time to making the McMinnville Works Internship Program a success this year.

A Special Acknowledgement to our host sites: 




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MEDP's monthly newsletter, The MEDP Spark, received a Silver Award from the International Economic Development Council in 2017.

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