Recognizing Internships That Hit The Jackpot

Janet Boston

By: Janet Boston - Executive Director, Indiana INTERNnet

Category: Internships

"You can't win the lottery if you don't play." Business advocate and internship enthusiast Jennifer Fisher wasn't encouraging the crowd to gamble when she emphasized these words in her keynote address at the 9th Annual IMPACT Awards luncheon, but instead to "get in the game" to build a career.

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Of course, at Indiana INTERNnet we believe one of the best ways to jumpstart careers is through internships. We recognized several "winning" initiatives at the "jackpot" event this year.

For instance, this year's College Intern of the Year, Charisa Scott, went above and beyond at her internship with Covance Central Laboratory Services. She created and delivered a SharePoint site, a project she managed from start to finish, and successfully launched it for the Global Client Coordinator Team. Following her internship, she accepted a full-time position with Covance.

Interns transitioning into full-time hires is a jackpot for both students and employers.

We look forward to the IMPACT Awards luncheon every year because it's our opportunity to celebrate the significance of internships and spotlight accomplishments like Scott's. The focus is on interns and how they are working to become the best and brightest in Indiana's workforce. We entertained a capacity crowd at the event, and the 60-plus stories of success we recognized is a testament to the importance of internships for students, employers, industries and the state of Indiana.

Lieutenant Gov. Sue Ellspermann closed the event by challenging employers to do even more to invest in young talent in Indiana. The Indiana Career Council's strategic plan calls for 60% of the state's workers to have in-demand postsecondary skills and credentials by 2025. Aligning and engaging industry, education and the emerging workforce in work-and-learn models is a key strategy for Indiana's economic development.

All of this year's Employer of the Year nominees offer innovative models for internship programs and are contributing to this effort.

At Baldwin & Lyons, Inc. (B+L), 2014 For-Profit Employer of the Year, the focus is on meaningful projects and dedicated mentoring to maximize interns' learning experiences.

"2014 has been a year of excellence for our internship program," says Valerie Wilson, chief of staff at B+L. And it's easy to see why.

--96 percent of interns reported their job responsibilities were challenging but attainable.
--63 percent of interns with at least junior standing were converted to either full-time or part-time employment or another internship.
--100 percent of interns expressed interest in working for B+L upon graduation.

Wilson says B+L's educational resources are focused on enhancing general business knowledge and skills in a fun and engaging way. They host Lunch & Learns on a variety of topics. All interns are provided access to Lynda.com, a video tutorial library, so they can learn business software and skills. They are also encouraged to shadow different departments and specify areas or positions they were most interested in. Prior to internship season, B+L supervisors complete thorough training on how to be a mentor.

B+L also offers several networking opportunities. The internships started with a lunch discussion, featuring a panel of B+L employees who began as interns. Interns had the chance to volunteer at the Special Olympics Summer Games. They also had lunch with B+L's CEO, attended an Indianapolis Indians' game and had a party at Latitude 360.

The employer-intern connection doesn't end with the internship at B+L. This fall, employees assembled care packages with encouraging notes to send their former interns during final exams. Staff also makes an effort to visit when they are on college campuses for career fairs.

"Our summer 2014 cohort is more than a group of 'former interns,'" concludes Wilson. "They are B+L alumni and continue to contribute to the program's successes."

We couldn't be more pleased with the growing awareness and innovation in experiential learning, and we are proud to play a role in that. If your company is looking to start an internship program, or if you're looking for assistance with improving an existing one, Indiana INTERNnet exists to help. We provide a web site to facilitate student-employer matches at no cost and we also have instructional resources to help you build a standout internship program. You can also apply for EARN Indiana funds and see if your internship is eligible.

Janet Boston is executive director of Indiana INTERNnet.

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