The state of Nevada was hit hard during the economic downturn and still has one of the highest unemployment rates in the United States. Finding work is challenging, especially for young people. The state’s youth unemployment rate stood at 17 percent as of July 2013, well above Nevada’s overall unemployment rate of 9.5 percent.
The tight job market means college students looking for work to help pay for school often compete against people with more experience and expertise. Finding work is even more challenging in small towns and remote communities, such as Native American reservations.
“A large percentage of tribal members pursuing college degrees come home to the reservations and colonies in central Nevada to help improve conditions, but there are very few job opportunities available,” says Brian Mason, Program Manager of Native American Affairs for Barrick North America.
To help alleviate the situation, Barrick created the Western Shoshone Community Internship Program in March. It offers Western Shoshone students the opportunity to return to the reservation and complete paid internships in a field they are studying. The program is open to all students who have received scholarships through Barrick’s Western Shoshone Educational Legacy Fund.
To be eligible for the program, students must be in good standing and attending school the semester before the start of employment. To raise awareness about the program, Barrick sent out letters to 78 students inviting them to apply for internship positions. The company received 25 applications, with 20 meeting all eligibility requirements.
Barrick worked with tribal governments to determine staffing needs and helped create the internship positions. Interns work in a variety of fields including conservation, medicine and administrative roles, with each internship lasting at least eight weeks. Barrick pays the interns’ salaries.
Barrick has a long track record of providing students with job opportunities in Nevada. In addition to the Western Shoshone Community Internship Program, the company employs about 100 post-secondary students as paid interns each summer at various Barrick operations in Nevada in technical and administrative roles. The Western Shoshone Educational Legacy Fund provides funding to support college-bound students of all ages. Since the fall of 2008, 635 scholarships have been awarded.
“The Western Shoshone Internship program is another way Barrick supports communities throughout Nevada,” Mason says. “Even though these students are not studying mining-related courses or working for Barrick, they are working to make their communities more sustainable and self-reliant.”
Rondee Graham is a senior at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Sante Fe, New Mexico, and one of the 20 students who participated in the Western Shoshone Community Internship Program this summer. She is originally from the Duckwater Reservation, located in a remote desert valley in northeast Nevada.
Duckwater has lots to offer – beautiful landscape, flowing rivers and tall trees – but it lacks infrastructure and jobs. Graham spent eight weeks this summer working on a fish regeneration project in Duckwater. “The internship gives us the opportunity to earn some money for school, and working on the reservation allowed us to reconnect with our families and our culture,” she says. “It’s great to be able to return to the reservation and give back to the community. It’s important to show the younger people the importance of education and be a role model. I am very grateful for the scholarship and the internship I have received through Barrick.”
Jovahanna Anderson is another intern. She majored in music at the University of Arizona, and will be pursuing a master’s degree in performing arts at the University of Denver this fall. Anderson, who hopes to become an opera performer, says the internship helped augment her finances so that she does not need to find part-time work in Denver, giving her more time to focus on perfecting her craft.
The Western Shoshone Community Internship Program has received attention from other indigenous tribes in Nevada. “The program is being talked about in ‘Indian Country’ right now, not just in Nevada but among other tribes as well,” says Mason, a Shoshone native who grew up in Nevada. “This program will be looked at as an innovative way to be a responsible corporate citizen.”