The Indiana County Chamber of Commerce next year will launch a new “clearing house”-style program to match job-seekers with on-the-job learning and training opportunities at area businesses and worksites.
The Indiana County Chamber of Commerce Center for Internships will begin operation on Feb. 1, chamber board Chairman Robert Kane announced Friday at the organization’s annual membership luncheon.
Kane, chairman and CEO of Reliant Holdings, in White Township, said he spearheaded the internship center idea because of his own positive, productive experience serving as an intern with the Reschini insurance agency while he was a student at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
“I was introduced to a lot of businesses and leaders, and I learned a lot about Indiana County that I would not have learned if I had just been inside the four walls of my dormitory,” Kane said. “That turned out to be a very important experience for me.”
After running his own business from 1996 to 2004, he said, and considered leaving the area.
“My wife and I thought we should go somewhere. I was looking for another place to start a business. And I looked back on Indiana County and I drew upon those years as an intern at IUP. I remembered that Indiana County was full of good, solid hard-working people who I thought would be good, devoted employees if given a fair opportunity.”
Taking account of the area public schools and IUP, an important economic engine for the county, Kane said he decided to form Reliant Holdings.
“I decided this will be a great place to start my business, and I don’t think I would have done that if I did not have an internship through IUP.”
He envisions the new internship center as a tool for maintaining the workforce and for encouraging young people, especially future entrepreneurs, to start new companies and hire people in the local area.
“If we expect high school and college graduates to stay in Indiana County, we need to create opportunities for them to learn first-hand that Indiana County is ‘open for business,’” Kane said, referring to one of the chamber’s marketing slogans. “We need to provide these young, eager prospective businessmen and women the opportunities for mentorship, like Roger (Reschini) did for me.
“So if we invest in kids today, I promise you it will pay dividends in the long term.”
“The center will be a central clearing house for kids who are interested in participating in an internship to contact the chamber, give us the information we need, so we can share that exclusively with our nearly 700 members,” he said.
Not only would the program serve traditional high school and college students, Kane said, it would accept applications from adults searching for chances to learn about working in different fields.
“We need to execute as a chamber of commerce, and to encourage all to invest in this community,” he said. “So this is our message to all young people here today and the thousands who are about to graduate: May you always consider Indiana County your home. When you are ready, Indiana County and this chamber will welcome you back to further your careers and raise your families.”
Kane is serving the second half of his two-year term as board chairman. Others in his administration are Elizabeth Gregg, first vice chairwoman; Greg Sipos, second vice chairman; Jim Kinneer, treasurer; and Joe Reschini, secretary.
On the recommendation of the board’s nominating committee, chamber members Friday re-elected Sherry Renosky, C.J. Spadafora and Mark Zilner to serve new three-year terms on the board. Gary Small and Elizabeth Hutton were chosen to fill unexpired terms; Josh Rosenberger was elected to serve his first three-year term, and Kinneer was elected to a first term on the executive committee.
Kane also presented a plaque of recognition and appreciation to Indiana County Commissioner David Frick, who has announced he will retire Dec. 31 from the commissioners’ office after 10 years of service. The luncheon audience honored Frick with a standing ovation.