Mayor Greg Fischer kicks off the 2016 Summer Works program at Humana Monday afternoon. The program connects local employers with young interns. | Photo by Boris Ladwig.
Mayor Greg Fischer kicks off the 2016 SummerWorks program at Humana’s Digital Experience Center Monday afternoon. The program connects local employers with young interns. | Photo by Boris Ladwig.

About 2,700 young adults will gain valuable work experience with Louisville area employers in the next few months as they complete internships as part of the 2016 Mayor’s SummerWorks Program.

Mayor Greg Fischer kicked off the event Monday afternoon at Humana’s Digital Experience Center, where employees work on such projects as the Humana Vitality and My Humana apps.

It was the interns’ first day, and most of them had dressed professionally, with many of the guys wearing slacks, shirts and ties. Their attire contrasted with the prevailing outfits in the Silicon Valley-inspired lab, in which employees in jeans and tattoo-revealing tank tops huddled together around large flat screens near banks of power plugs and high-speed data connections.

The industrial-looking space features exposed silver ducts running along the ceiling and a wide-open office concept, with glass-encased interior conference rooms and floor-to-ceiling windows along Main Street. Throughout the space, 6-foot-tall whiteboards displayed charts, hand-written information and scribbles on sticky notes.

After the interns got an introduction into the work being done in the lab, Fischer welcomed the young adults and thanked Humana leaders for their cooperation in expanding the SummerWorks program.

Fischer launched SummerWorks in 2011, when the city struggled with a high teen unemployment rate and a federal program that helped youngsters find jobs was being phased out. The program has grown significantly since its early years, but demand for the internships still outpaces supply.

The mayor said that when local employers provide young adults with jobs and internships, they boost the youngsters’ chances for a good career, help address the local labor shortage and improve the community.

“It’s really important for people to understand that we’re all in this together,” Fischer said.

For the first time, the program also attempts to place students in jobs in which they’ve expressed an interest, which helps students gain insights into specific careers — not just a work environment in general.

Competence, connections, cash

Cylin George
Cylin George

Cylin George, 18, of Louisville, learned about the program when she was in high school and signed up to receive information. She just finished her first year at Morehead State and will attend Indiana University Southeast in the fall to study health care administration. When she was notified about the Humana internship, she applied.

George said the company has made a good first impression on her in part because it places a high value on proper communication.

“Everybody’s so kind and welcoming,” she said. “So far, Humana is A1.”

The soon-to-be-sophomore said she looks forward to building her professional network and learning about the health care industry during her time with Humana.

George will work 30 hours per week and get paid $10 per hour, which, she said, was important for her because she hopes to buy a car soon that will save her some time. The drive to Humana will take about 10 minutes, she said, while a bus ride takes about four times as long.

Kevin Stakelum
Kevin Stakelum

Kevin Stakelum, Humana’s director of talent acquisition, said that participation in the SummerWorks program expands the insurer’s internship program, which generally targets more advanced college students. Company leaders hope SummerWorks will help Humana establish connections with talented employees earlier.

In a tight labor market, with highly talented workers being sought by many employers, those early connections can give Humana a competitive edge, Stakelum said.

The program also helps the interns gain valuable soft skills — showing up on time, working in a team, writing résumés — and real-world work experience.

“They’re working on real projects,” Stakelum said. “They’re not just showing up, collecting a check.”

SummerWorks also is being supported by KentuckianaWorks, Greater Louisville’s Workforce Development Board, Jefferson County Public Schools and the Kentucky Youth Career Center.

Boris Ladwig

Boris Ladwig

Boris Ladwig is a reporter with more than 20 years of experience and has won awards from multiple journalism organizations in Indiana and Kentucky for feature series, news, First Amendment/community affairs, nondeadline news, criminal justice, business and investigative reporting. As part of The (Columbus, Indiana) Republic’s staff, he also won the Kent Cooper award, the top honor given by the Associated Press Managing Editors for the best overall news writing in the state. A graduate of Indiana State University, he is a soccer aficionado (Borussia Dortmund and 1. FC Köln), singer and travel enthusiast who has visited countries on five continents. He speaks fluent German, rudimentary French and bits of Spanish, Italian, Khmer and Mandarin.