We asked the apprentices in nonprofit management to tell us more about themselves, their work, and their future plans. Here are one apprentice’s reflections on what the program has been like so far.
What attracted you to the apprentice program?
I was thinking about getting a job in town, but I was worried about how I would balance school work and working in town. I had been searching for a way to get involved in the town and the greater Grinnell community for a while when I saw a poster for the apprentice program. I attended an informational meeting and realized this opportunity was the perfect balance of work experience and community engagement. I applied to Poweshiek Iowa Development Pow I-80 as a way to get my toes wet in the nonprofit world before I graduated.
Why are you doing the program?
I am doing this program to gain “real world” work experience before I graduate. I have been interested in nonprofit work for a while, and this job has allowed me to gain a familiarity with that field. It also helps that it is a paid apprenticeship!
What background or skills do you bring to the program?
I have spent several summers working as an office assistant, and with this apprenticeship I was ready to do much more. Although I know how to answer phones, write letters, and organize files, I am also a creative problem-solver. I looked forward to being an active team member at Poweshiek Iowa Development, using my perspective as a student and a non-Iowa native to help generate ideas and implement work plans. I am innovative, hard-working and resourceful.
What about Poweshiek Iowa Development’s mission inspires you?
I am inspired by Poweshiek Iowa Development’s commitment to the residents of the county. Pow I-80 provides economic and community development assistance to existing and new businesses, local development organizations and governments, but their real focus is on the actual people and individuals who make up our businesses and organizations.
What drew you to Poweshiek Iowa Development?
I wanted to be involved in business development, something I do not know very much about, so I could learn more about how small towns run and thrive. Secondly, my apprenticeship caters specifically to my interest in marketing, which I wanted to learn more about.
What kinds of projects do you do?
Since Pow I-80 is a county-wide organization, we are involved in an incredible variety of organizations, projects, and initiatives, many of which I have engaged with. Over the summer I helped coordinate volunteers for Grinnell’s big RAGBRAI event, when thousands of bikers stayed in Grinnell as a stop on their race across the state. I contacted business and agriculture schools across Iowa to invite them to an exporting conference Pow I-80 was planning with Iowa Innovation Gateway. This fall, I wrote a grant for city-wide tree planting as an energy-saving initiative. I researched and rewrote the Grinnell Renaissance guidelines for historic development of the downtown as well as the organization’s general bylaws.
What kind of skills have you been learning?
I have learned grant-writing skills, meeting management, office coordination and organization, and presentational skills.
The Impact Her Apprenticeship Has Had on Her
How has having a close working relationship with your director impacted you and your future education plans?
It has been educational for me to observe how my executive director, Deb Collum-Calderwood, orchestrates the amazing number of projects we work on with clarity and consistency. Being an executive director of a nonprofit requires remarkable organization, drive, coordination of others, and long-term vision. I have been lucky enough to follow Deb around on many of her business meetings and become embedded in her work world.
I am so lucky to have a director as kind and enjoyable to work with as Deb. She takes my apprenticeship seriously and has given a lot of her time to teach me how Pow I-80 works. Working and learning from someone is much easier when you develop a good relationship. On my 22nd birthday, Deb turned the end of a business meeting into a surprise birthday lunch, complete with a beautiful pink champagne cake from the Danish Maid bakery!
How has the apprenticeship program changed your perception of Grinnell? Nonprofit work? Your future?
My knowledge of Grinnell and the surrounding area has grown incalculably since I began my apprenticeship! As a native of Grinnell, Deb took care to show me as much of the county as she could. I have learned where all the businesses are and who runs them, as well as history of Grinnell I never knew. This apprenticeship has been really great for getting to know Grinnell and Poweshiek County; I feel much more knowledgeable and comfortable now in town than I ever did before.
Pow I-80 has given me a “real world” view of nonprofit work — both good and bad. In a small county like Poweshiek, it is exciting to do nonprofit work because you can directly see the benefits of your work throughout the community. However, the apprentice program has de-glamorized notions of nonprofit work I previously held; it is hard, yet rewarding, work.
As far as post graduation careers, I am still unsure what I will do. However, I do have a deeper interest in pursuing community work and business management.
The apprentice program has been personally fulfilling in connecting me with the town of Grinnell and the individuals and institutions that make it run.