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Margaret Fosmoe - 2/2/2014
Source: http://www.southbendtribune.com/news/local/keynews/education/internship-opportunities-may-improve/article_823c3514-8bff-11e3-9ac

A college internship can be a steppingstone to a longtime job or a permanent career.

With that in mind, the St. Joseph County Chamber of Commerce has launched an effort to expand the number and scope of internship opportunities for college students at area business and nonprofit agencies.

The new effort is called internSJC.

"Business leaders across the country are recognizing the challenge of bringing top talent back to the community," said Jeff Rea, president and chief executive officer of the Chamber of Commerce. A good way to encourage the best students to stay and work in a community after college is to provide them real-life job experience during internships while they're still in college, he said.

Internships will be the main focus of the Chamber's annual education summit Friday. "Education Summit IV: Your Role in Talent Engagement" is the title of the event from 7:45 to 10 a.m. Friday at Gillespie Conference Center, 53995 Indiana 933, South Bend.

Jennifer Fisher of Fort Wayne, culture and retention manager at Group Dekko, will deliver a keynote address. Fisher's job involves program development, recruiting and employee retention efforts.

Her talk will be followed by a panel discussion featuring Janet Boston, executive director, Indiana INTERNnet; Amanda Stanley, director of program relationships, Indiana Commission for Higher Education's EARN Indiana program; Rich Carlton, president and chief operating officer, Data Realty; Chuck Ball, director of the Center for Discernment & Preparation, Holy Cross College; and Kate Lee, the Chamber's director of talent engagement.

The cost to attend is $25 for Chamber members, $45 for nonmembers. For more information or to register for Friday's summit, visit; www.sjchamber.org.

There will be a bonus session from 10:15 to 11:15 a.m. focusing on developing quality internship opportunities within a business or agency.

Many colleges encourage students to seek out internships for pay and/or academic credit. Holy Cross College requires every student to complete an internship before earning a degree.

Holy Cross College junior Matt Andrews, of Mishawaka, currently is interning for academic credit at Obsidian Financial, an accounting firm.

"I wanted to gain some practical, real-life experience in accounting and bookkeeping," Andrews said, and that is happening during the internship. "It's not just busy work. They're assigning me tasks that are valuable to the business," he said.

Ben Bournay, a Holy Cross senior from Dowagiac, completed an internship for pay and academic credit last summer with Cressy & Everett Commercial Co. in Mishawaka. He worked in the marketing department helping with the firm's rebranding to become Newmark, Grubb, Cressy & Everett.

The experience provided practical job experience and convinced Bournay he wants to work in marketing. "It was important to me to see how marketing works outside of class. It showed me how the world works," he said.

Before the internship, Bournay had planned to go into sales. He liked the marketing experience so much, he changed his career focus and is now applying for marketing jobs in the Michiana area for after graduation. An internship "is a way for an employer to test-drive a potential employee. An internship is extremely important," he said.

Kate Lee joined the Chamber last fall as director of talent engagement. She's working with area businesses to help them develop internship programs and spread the word to students.

Indianapolis and Fort Wayne each already have very active efforts among employers to offer and sustain internships for college students, Lee said.

St. Joseph County employers are being challenged to develop a similar commitment.

The Chamber is encouraging employers and students to use IndianaIntern.net, a free online matching program and searchable database. Students can post résumés and employers can post details about their internships and how to apply. The site also offers educational materials about how to create and manage an internship program and, for students, how to seek out the right internship.

As the number of internships grows in the community, the Chamber this summer plans to host some social and networking events for college students who are working in the South Bend area as interns for the summer. Getting interns from different companies or agencies together for outings such as attending a Silver Hawks game at Coveleski Stadium will help the students make friends and get to know the community better, Lee said.

Such group events will be a good way to educate students about entertainment, recreation and community engagement in this region, she said.

Some employers may be eligible for state funding for internships through the EARN (Employment Aid Readiness Network) Indiana program, which is part of the state's work-study program. The program is open to college students with financial need who receive Indiana financial aid.

Up to 50 percent of a student's hourly internship rate may be paid by the state. For employer and student eligibility guidelines, see: indiana-intern.net/earn_info.