Student Ambassadors at MBEP event
Promoted content

MBEP Student Ambassadors: building up a robust regional workforce

Through internship projects that support Monterey Bay Economic Partnership (MBEP) initiatives and members, MBEP’s Student Ambassadors help pave the way toward more affordable housing, a healthier environment, and a greener economy. These work-based learning opportunities ease the transition from school to the workplace while also developing a regional workforce aligned with employer needs.

Thanks to the work of MBEP Student Ambassadors, affordable housing developers will have one less obstacle to overcome in the Monterey Bay region.

Three MBEP Student Ambassadors worked with MBEP Housing Associate Rafael Hernandez to advance the work of its Housing Initiative. Working through lists of more than 2,000 surplus state properties, Kevin Manzano, Genesis Del Rio and Crystal Cheung created a database of potentially usable sites for affordable housing development, searchable by specific characteristics, and mapping those potential sites to promote them based on their potential for housing such as property size, access to grocery stores and schools, proximity to main roads, and other factors. Manzano is a UC Santa Cruz economics major enrolled in UCSC’s work-study program, Del Rio is a cinema major at San Francisco State University/Monterey Peninsula College, and Cheung, enrolled in field-study academic credit, is pursuing a degree in business management economics at UC Santa Cruz.

They were among the 16 MBEP Student Ambassadors who participated in the internship program this academic year, partnering with MBEP initiatives and member organizations on work-based learning opportunities. The program benefits organizations and employers by developing an ongoing local talent pipeline, leveraging academic research, creating mentorship opportunities and extra resources in a cost-effective manner.

MBEP President and CEO Kate Roberts said the Student Ambassador program is a “win-win,” providing great work-based learning opportunities while also helping MBEP member organizations accomplish important work.

Launched in 2019 as part of MBEP’s Workforce Development Initiative, the Student Ambassador program has afforded career path exploration and professional development opportunities for college or graduate-level students or recent grads who can also earn academic credit and/or stipends and gain a competitive edge in the job market.

Projects focusing on healthy soils analysis, zero waste planning, green economy, and much more were showcased last week as MBEP Student Ambassadors presented the work they did this year alongside MBEP partner organizations. Watch the MBEP Student Ambassador Symposium below.

Mehul Kamran, a senior in environmental studies and economics at UC Santa Cruz, worked with Driscoll’s as an R&D ROI Analyst Tech Assistant, reviewing data showcasing different plant types in soil and substrate, and on MBEP’s Climate Change Initiative Return on Sustainability Investments (ROSI) guidebook with three other MBEP Student Ambassadors, focusing on transportation and other ways companies can reduce their carbon footprint.

It really gave me exposure to skills I could use in the real world and a lot of really great connections. I think that these are skills that I can take to any company after I graduate.

— Mehul Kamran

A community engagement survey created by MBEP Student Ambassador Justin Sharer will help the City of Santa Cruz ensure equity as it works toward building a green economy as part of its Climate Action Plan. A Cal Poly San Luis Obispo graduate student in Public Policy and resident of Monterey County, Sharer also analyzed economic and workforce trends and identified grant opportunities.

Grant Simmons, a recent graduate of Whitman College and resident of Santa Cruz, also took part in MBEP’s Student Ambassador program. He created a streamlined and dynamically changing tracker for state and federal legislation that could affect climate and sustainability policy at the local level and also reviewed market-based solutions as part of the city’s Building Decarbonization project.

Dr. Tiffany Wise-West, Climate and Sustainability Program Manager for the City of Santa Cruz, says it was a “phenomenal” experience to work with Simmons and Sharer. “This really helped increase our capacity over the past three months to get some things done that we could not have gotten done otherwise,” she said. “I want to attest to the quality of the skills and the attitudes that these folks bring to this work and how much enormously it’s helped.”

Learn about the work of a few MBEP Student Ambassadors and the resources offered to employers to create an internship program in the presentation and by watching the Symposium here.

The Community Foundation for Monterey County recently awarded a $5,000 grant to support MBEP’s Student Ambassador program. “We’re thrilled to receive funding to continue our stipend program into next year. Paid internships give students a more competitive edge in the job market than unpaid internships,” says Hayley Mears, MBEP’s Workforce Development Program Manager. “We are always seeking ways to pay our interns; last year, we enrolled in UC Santa Cruz’s Federal Work-Study Program as a subsidized off-campus employer to pay a percentage of interns’ wages. However, not all UCSC students are eligible for work-study and not all colleges offer this program, so our stipends are crucial to pay our interns.”

Learn more about MBEP’s Student Ambassador Program on Monterey Bay Career Connect or contact Ashley Gauer, MBEP Program Manager for Special Projects and Hayley Mears, MBEP Workforce Development Program Manager.