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Katie Coffin - 11/24/2014
Source: http://www.insideindianabusiness.com/contributors.asp?ID=3079

We see the importance of internships on the micro level throughout Indiana every day. Now, with the creation of the Indiana Career Council and its recent release of Align, Engage, Advance: A Strategic Plan to Transform Indiana's Workforce, we are seeing the significance of internships on the macro level as well.

Stories of interns and their impact emerge constantly. For instance:

  • The automotive plant where an intern saved the company $66,000 through a self-developed efficiency strategy

  • The accounting intern who worked his way up to senior accountant in two short years

  • The communications company where interns created a speech recognition application that attracted worldwide attention for a number of medical innovations.

On a broader scale, the goal of the strategic plan is for 60% of Indiana’s workforce to have the postsecondary knowledge, skills and credentials demanded within Indiana’s economy by 2025. The fourth objective designated to meet that goal is to “elevate the importance of work-and-learn models.” Indiana INTERNnet is ready to utilize and expand its existing programming to help meet these goals.

Lt. Governor Sue Ellspermann, vice chair of the Indiana Career Council, notes, “Studies show that internships and other work experiences benefit students by introducing them to possible career paths and teaching the personal skills needed to succeed in the workplace. In addition, this is a great talent retention tool as a high percentage of interns will take positions with the employers for which they intern.”

Employers and educators have realized the need for collaboration in order to build the dynamic workforce Indiana needs. There are already progressive work-and-learn models arising organically across the state.

Subaru of Indiana Automotive, Inc. (SIA) in Lafayette hosts the SIA Advanced Internship in Manufacturing (AIM) Program, a collaboration between SIA, Vincennes University and Purdue University’s College of Technology.

Students selected for the AIM program begin with classroom work at Vincennes, where they learn cutting-edge advanced manufacturing technologies. Beginning their second semester, AIM students take classes (two days a week through the Purdue program) at the SIA plant in Lafayette to earn their associate’s degree from Vincennes in computer integrated manufacturing. Three days a week, students apply the technologies learned in the classroom in various technical rotation assignments.

Upon completion of the program, graduates will be prepared to install, program, interface, service, troubleshoot and implement automated equipment for advanced manufacturing and will qualify for a position at SIA. After six months of full-time employment, AIM graduates can continue their education on-site through the Purdue College of Technology. They can then earn a Purdue bachelor’s degree in engineering technology, paid for by SIA.

TechPoint’s Xtern program is another example of cross-sector collaboration. TechPoint, Indiana’s technology industry initiative, has convened local companies to host interns. A few of the participating companies are Rook Security, ExactTarget, Interactive Intelligence and Angie’s List. The students are provided free housing on the IUPUI campus, work a paid internship, and have plenty of networking, cultural and professional growth opportunities around Indianapolis.

But industry and education partnerships are not limited to higher education. Noblesville High School (NHS) piloted its internship program in January 2013 with 22 students. In the 2013-2014 school year, 71 students were placed in 28 businesses. This school year, 135 students signed up for the program.

“The internship program at NHS continues to grow because it complements our mission – to provide students with opportunities to apply their learning in preparation for success in college and careers,” says Susan Wiersema, NHS internship coordinator. “We are fortunate that our community values the role businesses can play in preparing tomorrow's workforce.”

NHS has 45 employer partners; among them are Beck’s Hybrids; Gaylor, Inc.; and SMC Corporation. Melinda Wirstiuk, volunteer coordinator at St. Vincent Hospital, manages 18 interns from NHS. She places each in a designated unit between the two hospitals in Carmel and Fishers and rotates them to different units every 10 weeks.

“Our staff loves the opportunity to share their skill sets with these bright, highly-motivated students,” Wirstiuk reports. “These students are our future and there is nothing more rewarding and important than investing in the future.”

Indiana INTERNnet is inspired by these stories and admires the visionaries who understood long ago the importance of experiential learning. But there is more work to be done. The hope is to see programs like SIA’s AIM, Xtern and the NHS internships in every industry and every region across the state. Indiana INTERNnet is poised to be a leader in the effort.

Aligning and engaging industry, education and the emerging workforce in work-and-learn models will be key in Indiana’s economic development. When it comes to experiential learning, everyone wins.