Coordinator training county government’s next generation

EVERETT — Shawna Ousse’s job is building the future.

Since the beginning of the year, Ousse has worked as Snohomish County’s coordinator for interns and volunteers.

She ushers students into the workforce and helps the county recruit the next generation of employees. Once the intern program gets under way, she also plans to start matching potential volunteers with opportunities at the county.

“There are so many people who want to be involved and we want to make it easy for them,” Ousse said.

The coordinator position is new for the county.

County Executive John Lovick created it as part of the 2014 budget. The goal was to boost civic participation. The top three priorities are: organizing internships, organizing volunteers and mentoring interns once they’re on board.

“We just have an untapped resource really and we want to put some structure around it,” said the county’s human resources director, Bridget Clawson, who supervises the program.

Some internships are paid, others not.

Some might be put to work helping design roads or devising policies to help the county save energy. Parks, finance, communications, human resources, law enforcement — they’re all possibilities.

“I think it’s a recruiting gold mine,” Clawson said. “A lot of young people don’t think about county government as a career.”

Some county departments, such as public works, already have well-established internship programs. Ousse’s goal is to formalize the process countywide. Beyond technical skills, she wants to instill good work habits.

At the end of the internship, students will do a presentation about what they’ve learned.

“I love the idea of helping students start their careers,” Ousse said. “I was once an intern myself, 12 years ago.”

She graduated in 2002 from Eastern Washington University. During her last quarter there, she interned with the Spokane County Democrats.

Soon, she was working full time organizing special events for the state Democratic Party. In that role, she also worked with interns, who have gone to work in Congress, in Olympia and elsewhere. Now removed from the political realm, she plans to build on that experience.

“I’m helping people start their careers for the past 10 years,” she said, “and that’s what I’m really proud of.”

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465, nhaglund@heraldnet.com.

To learn more

Look at Snohomish County’s job opportunities page, where the county soon plans to start posting internships: tinyurl.com/SnoCoJobs

To to get notices about job and internship openings at the county, fill out a job interest card: tinyurl.com/SnoCoNotices

For volunteer opportunities: tinyurl.com/SnoCoVolunteer

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