FARGO-It's the time of year again when many college students are preoccupied with planning where to spend spring break. Instead, they might be wise to turn their attention to securing a summer internship.

Internships provide valuable work experience that can help graduates stand out from a hiring pool filled with people with a similar education. In some cases, an internship will lead to a full-time position with the company. If not, interns still often come away with good references and industry contacts.

Wednesday's 1 Million Cups event is meant to help students find internships. The weekly event will move from The Stage at Island Park to North Dakota State University's Barry Hall downtown. There, representatives from several area businesses will take the stage to promote their company's internship opportunities to students.

DogIDs, an e-commerce site specializing in personalized dog accessories, will be there.

Shelby Cochrane, DogIDs' Swing Dog involved with catalog and marketing, said the company primarily hires interns to write content for product pages and other search engine optimization work, but they've hired graphic design and accounting interns as well.

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Concordia College senior Alia Kopischke and Minnesota State University Moorhead senior Liz Hayden are currently interning at DogIDs. Both said the experience is helping them decide what type of job to pursue after college.

Kopishke, a business major, appreciates how DogIDs' open office layout has fostered collaboration.

"I'm learning about the whole business, not just the one thing I'm working on," she said.

Hayden, an advertising and public information major, said she appreciates that interns are invited to take part in all meetings, big or small. That has helped her decide she would prefer doing in-house advertising rather than work for a big agency.

"I don't want to feel lost. I want to be completely involved," she said.

Internships do not benefit only students. Cochrane said interns help out with a lot of important work the regular staff can't get to because they're bogged down with the day-to-day projects.

"They write content for product pages and they do a lot of SEO work in terms of taking really old product pages on our site and updating the content and making them more relevant for search," she said. "They're the kind of projects where you get your training, you get your assignment, and then you really can just run with it and make it your own."

Operation Intern

DogIDs gets intern wage assistance from a program of the North Dakota Department of Commerce called Operation Intern. Coordinator Jennifer Dahl said the program was established by the North Dakota Legislature in 2007 in an effort to keep young people from leaving the state.

"If you remember back in 2007, all our young people were leaving. They were trying to look for incentives for companies to hire younger people so they'd stay in the state," she said.

Funds are approved by the Legislature each biennium. Qualified employers are eligible to receive up to $3,000 per intern, with a cap of $30,000.

Operation Intern's focus is on the industries of energy, advanced manufacturing, value-added agriculture, tourism and technology, but Dahl said funding is also available for high-wage, high-demand positions like those within an engineering firm.

Cochrane is grateful the funds are available to startups like DogIDs.

"If we didn't have that subsidized funding, it would be a lot harder for us to pay a competitive wage to our interns," Cochrane said. "And, I think the fact that they're actually doing work for us that's really beneficial, it's really nice to be able to actually pay them. I think it's a lot harder to get really good candidates to be interested when you can't pay interns or you're offering unpaid internships. It's just hard, especially now with college being so expensive, to do that. So, that's why we're really lucky to have that program in this area."



What: 1 Million Cups Intern Day

When: 9:15 a.m. Wednesday

Where: Barry Hall, 811 2nd Ave. N., Fargo