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Jacie Shoaf - 9/11/2013

INDIANAPOLIS – Hoosier college students have more internship opportunities this fall through the new Employment Aid Readiness Network program, which has expanded its connections between employers and interns.

The EARN program, which essentially revamped the former work-study program under law that took effect July 1, now accepts internship positions from for-profit businesses. Previously, only positions within nonprofit, government and collegiate entities were approved by EARN.

Additionally, students who meet the requirements for state financial aid awards, which include the Frank O’Bannon grant and the 21st Century Scholarship, are eligible to be part of the EARN program, even if they choose not to accept the state financial aid awards.

“The change was proposed in order to increase opportunities for students,” said Amanda Stanley, director of program relationships for the division of student financial aid at the Indiana Commission for Higher Education.

EARN enforces strict guidelines for approving internships in an effort to make the available positions more challenging and worthwhile for students. The approved jobs are “preparing students for the workforce or careers rather than just a summer job,” said Katie Coffin, administrative assistant for the Indiana Chamber of Commerce.

To participate, students must be enrolled in college full-time during the school year. The internships must require 12 to 20 hours per week (12 to 40 hours per week during the summer) and must offer payment equal to greater than the minimum wage. Through EARN, the state will reimburse up to 50 percent of the wage the companies pay interns.

Charlotte Pflum, 4-H program assistant for the Fayette County Extension Office, said her most recent summer intern was studying education and so she helped to plan, implement and teach 4-H workshops.

“Usually the kids who come out of it are interested in what they’re doing and their education,” Pflum said.

“It puts extra hands in your office and it helps get the work done,” said Linda Souchon, director of the Purdue Extension office in Johnson County. Souchon was able to have two summer interns instead of one because of the state dollars available through the EARN program.

“Many of the students are very talented,” Souchon said. “It’s a win-win for both the employer and the student.”

Interns in the program are matched with employers exclusively through Indiana INTERNnet, a statewide resource managed by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. On the database, EARN-approved positions are marked with a logo, as are students who meet EARN requirements. This makes partnering easier.

“It was kind of difficult to maneuver their website” initially, Souchon said. “Once they got [the logo] out and got it communicated, things got easy.”

Stanley called INTERNnet “an amazing partner.”

“It has really facilitated finding a better match for students and employers,” she said.

Over the summer, the EARN program had 101 approved positions for interns. As of early September, there were 27 approved positions for the fall semester, with more being expected as more accompanies submitted applications.