Building Billings’ Future Workforce: Summer Intern Leadership Institute | Summer Jobs Program

August 2022

by Cathy Grider, Workforce Development Manager – Billings Chamber of Commerce | 

Marcell Bruski, Director of Marketing & BillingsWorks – Big Sky Economic Development  

Ensuring the alignment of education and training with the current and future workforce demands is a priority for many organizations in Billings, including BillingsWorks, the workforce development program at Big Sky Economic Development (BSED), and the Billings Chamber of Commerce. They continue to collaborate on workforce initiatives helping to extend our efforts throughout the area.   

BSED is proud to have the opportunity to host the Yellowstone County Summer Jobs Program (YCSJP), a project of American Jobs 4 American Youth (AJAY) Montana, and to lead the Summer Intern Leadership Institute program.   

The YCSJP promotes educational opportunities to community partners and our local student workforce. It has been a successful project in Helena for three years. This year, it expanded into Yellowstone County, Flathead County, and the Butte/Anaconda area. This program takes a synergetic approach led by BSED, partnering with AJAY, the Billings Chamber, Billings Public Schools, Reach Higher Montana, Billings Association of Realtors, and City College at Montana State University Billings.  

The YCSJP matches participants with a job or paid internship, provides paid foundational work skills training, and connects students with an adult mentor for the summer. YCSJP participants are high school students and recent graduates eager to develop their work skills and explore career options. Participating area businesses (in all industries) and community organizations help strengthen the local economy by connecting youth to meaningful work experiences.  

Students and businesses began applying to the program earlier this year, interviewed with YCSJP Committee members, and were matched with a business that best fit their area(s) of interest. The corresponding business then takes the student through their interviewing, hiring, and onboarding process. Students are also paired with a mentor through Billings NextGEN, a Billings Chamber young professionals program, to act as an outside resource for answering professional development questions. Students will work throughout the summer, and this year’s program will wrap up with an end-of-summer celebration.  

The Summer Intern Leadership Institute (SILI) began in 2019 as a partnership between BillingsWorks and the Billings Chamber of Commerce. Interns working in our local businesses at any stage of their education or career and from all industries are invited to participate in this summer course that provides them with career growth through personal and professional development, networking, and information on what it’s like to live and work in Billings. BillingsWorks and the Billings Chamber also highly encourage these interns to join the Billings NextGEN young professionals program for career mentorship and to build connections in Billings.  

Engaging with the local workforce is crucial to our economic future, and students are a key component. Industries need to provide our youth with work-based learning opportunities to help students gain experience, learn new skills, and better understand the pathways available after high school, specific to the type of career they desire.   

If you are interested in learning more about these programs, contact Big Sky Economic Development or the Billings Chamber of Commerce for more information.  

Originally printed in the August 2022 issue of Simply Local Magazine

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