GUEST COMMENTARY: Internships are winning strategy for Region

Date: 7/26/2016 through 7/26/2016

July 24, 2016

Internships are becoming a necessity for students as they graduate from college and begin applying for jobs.

A survey of employers conducted by The Chronicle of Higher Education showed that employers placed more weight on internships and employment during school than on graduates’ GPA, the college they attended or their majors and other academic credentials.

Students are getting the message as the percentage of college students seeking internships rises each year.

In a 2014 Gallup-Purdue survey, college graduates who completed an internship were far more likely than other graduates to “strongly agree” that college prepared them well for life after they graduated — 48 percent compared to 19 percent.

Indiana INTERNnet works with students, employers and colleges and universities to emphasize the factors that make internships so important.

Indiana INTERNnet is a talent retention program managed by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce focused on expanding experiential learning opportunities throughout the state. The online resource — www.IndianaINTERN.net — is a portal to facilitate matching employers with interns. The organization also provides information and tools to assist employers with their internship programs.

One of those tools is Indiana INTERNnet’s partnership with the Indiana Commission for Higher Education to host the Employment Aid Readiness Network Indiana program. The initiative provides students with access to resume-building paid internships while employers receive state matching funds — up to half of a student’s hourly rate, which must meet federal minimum wage requirements.

All student-employer matches are made through the Indiana INTERNnet web site.

 
 
 
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Recognizing the value of successful internship matches for retaining talent in Northwest Indiana, Indiana INTERNnet entered into a strategic partnership with the Center of Workforce Innovations and local colleges last year — and is seeing results in 2016.

The partnership focuses on increasing the number of high-quality internship opportunities offered by employers and then working with regional colleges and universities to find the best student matches.

To strategize next steps in accelerating participation by employers and students, the regional partnership members met recently with partners including Career Services staff from Purdue Northwest, Valparaiso University, Ivy Tech Northwest, Ancilla College, Saint Joseph’s College, Calumet College of St. Joseph and Indiana University Northwest. They reviewed data from the first six months of work showing success in making Northwest Indiana a leading region for growth in internships.

The goal is to use the Indiana INTERNnet portal to connect employers with students from regional colleges who seek internships. The focus is primarily on Northwest Indiana employers, who are increasingly using internships as a recruitment strategy to address skills gaps.

Work is being done to create internship opportunities in an array of industry sectors and occupations. CWI has leveraged its relationships with employers across seven counties to expand the pool of opportunities beyond the already successful efforts of local colleges. They also developed a new strategy to streamline the internship-matching process.

A regional talent retention coordinator works with post-secondary career services staff to identify internship-seeking students. From there, the coordinator works to match students’ interests with employers’ needs via the Indiana INTERNnetwebsite. In the last six months, 30 new employers have registered on IndianaINTERN.net, adding more than 50 new internship positions to the Region.

Through the expansion of internships, one of READY NWI’s primary goals is to develop a local talent pipeline of career-ready students. Indiana INTERN.net fits nicely into that strategy. It’s good for employers and good for our graduates.

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