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Using internships to keep Michigan talent in Michigan

November 13, 2013

Article courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner ASE

By Regina Bell, Guest Contributor

Human capital is a precious natural resource that companies, cities, and entire regions fiercely compete for. Business Leaders for Michigan has forecasted that the state’s economy will grow faster than the U.S. economy over the next six to eighteen months. This trend has forced many Michigan employers to compete more aggressively against one another to fill vacancies in computer science, math, engineering and health care. They need qualified talent but they’re struggling to find it in their own backyards.

At the same time, Michigan college grads cannot find the opportunities they want, so they’re leaving the state in hopes of starting their careers elsewhere. A Detroit Free Press survey found that only 33 percent of grads from Michigan State University and only 26 percent from University of Michigan plan on staying. However, among students who plan to leave after graduation, 83 percent say they would consider staying if Michigan’s economy improved. A disconnect exists between Michigan’s growing companies and the young graduates who want to stay in the state. College grads need to know that quality opportunities are available right here, right now.

Fortunately, many HR professionals, in small and large companies alike, are putting additional emphasis on internships as an effective way to engage skilled workers before they graduate. As reported in the American Society of Employers “Salaries for Co-op Students & Recent College Graduates Survey,” 65 percent of employers maintain a formal co-op/internship program, and 72 percent plan to recruit students this year.

Through internships, employers can test-drive new talent with the potential for conversion to full-time employment, cutting time and hiring costs. “We have eleven full time employees at our company, nine of them were once interns,’ said Margo Baetens, publicists at Allied Integrated Marketing in Detroit. “When a full-time position opens up we first reach out to former interns and current interns who are soon to graduate.”

Recognizing that internships are a critical resource in developing the talent pipeline for creating a career-ready generation, ASE has partnered with Intern in Michigan. This initiative was created to help employers and students connect and inform students of the great opportunities available in the state. Since its launch in 2011, Intern in Michigan has created nearly 200,000 matches between students and employers across the state. More than 2,000 employers have used the site to connect with over 24,000 talented internship seekers who want to start their careers in Michigan.

Having an internship program is just the start.  Creating mutually beneficial experiences for employers and students means that expectations must align. Prior to hiring an intern, employers should consider the following:

  • Be specific when posting opportunities. Students are looking for internships that fit their unique skills. Clearly identifying the goals and objectives you want to achieve increases the likelihood of a valuable experience for the intern AND the employer.
  • Decide in advance who will manage and/or mentor the intern. Without proper oversight, it’s unlikely you’ll realize the full potential of your intern.
  • Quality talent isn’t free.  Compensating your interns lets them know that they’re viewed as an asset to the organization. If your company is not in a position to offer compensation, however, you still have options. But you must make sure your opportunity meets the unpaid internship criteria provided by the U.S. Department of Labor.

Don’t allow the recent reports regarding intern compensation be a deterrent. The benefits of structuring an intern-friendly workplace can have significant return on investment. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, 48.8 percent of interns were hired as employees at the companies where they interned; 88 percent of those hires remained after a year and 72.9 percent after five years.

Facilitating the right connections between skilled talent and the needs of employers is critical to the economic success of Michigan. Using internships as a gateway to attracting talent can help employers meet their long-term human capital needs.  Click here to access the Intern in Michigan Portal.

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