The South Bend – Elkhart Regional Partnership says the pilot year of its LIFT Network Internship Program saw great success. The program provides subsidies for area manufacturing and advanced industry companies to hire interns from the nine colleges and universities in the region. Leighton Johnson, director of education and workforce for the partnership, says they have already received much interest from both students and companies looking to participate in the program again next summer.

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Johnson said the subsidies de-risk some of the investment from employers.

“ITAMCO, for example, was able to hire four interns this previous summer whereas before, they would’ve only been able to hire two. So, it helps them increase the number of interns they’re able to hire for the summers,” said Johnson. “It helps de-risk and lets them take chances and do things they wouldn’t have done before. For some employers, it helped them also increase wages that they were able to offer.”

The partnership says the LIFT Network distributed more than $70,000 in funding to subsidize 34 internships at more than 20 companies in Elkhart, Marshall and St. Joseph counties. Some of the participating employers included AM General, 1st Source Bank, Beacon Health System, Lippert Components, MackTool & Engineering, and Universal Bearings.

Johnson says they expect about a 90% retention for companies wanting to take part in the program next summer.

“Many employers shared that they are interested in re-hiring their students from this summer for next summer and many are just interested in reconnecting with the talent pool,” said Johnson. “Many of the students were rising sophomores and juniors, so many of them would be able to return to their previous work sites for this next summer.”

Johnson says the participating students are undergraduate and graduate students who mainly study engineering, business, computer science and other STEM and business-related disciplines. Johnson says the program highlighted the diversity of businesses with which students could become involved.

“Many [students] applied to companies they had never heard of. Many were working at companies they never knew existed,” he said. “And, a lot of employers were connecting with students who were enrolled in programs of study that they never knew existed at some of these regional, local colleges.”

The partnership says the average intern worked 405 hours at $16 per hour, earning more than $6,000 over the summer. They also had the opportunity to attend social, professional development and networking events hosted by various chambers of commerce throughout the region.

Johnson says for next year, the partnership is looking to increase the number of interns involved with the program to 45, with the goal of hitting at least 50 per year after that, with a mix of new and retained student matches.

“The entire goal of the program is the attraction and retention of talent in our region of STEM graduates,” said Johnson.

The partnership is now accepting employer applications for the Summer 2022 edition of the program. You can learn more by clicking here.

Johnson says the subsidies de-risks some of the investment from employers.