Kalamazoo Valley Community College

KVCC Foundation News Internship Initiative Begins this Semester

Internship initiative begins this semester

Businesses and industries are invited to partner in a major internship initiative that Kalamazoo Valley Community College is launching winter semester.

            Funded for a three-year period by the KVCC Foundation, the $100,000 project seeks to place at least 55 students per academic year with enterprises interested in a grow-your-own-workforce alliance.

            The bulk of the grant funds will be used to pay up to 50 percent of the wages for KVCC students accepted for internships through December of 2011, with the companies they work for providing the balance.

            “The number of students who take part could increase,” said Diane Vandenberg, assistant director of the KVCC Student Success Center, “if a company agrees to increase the ratio to 75-25, or to pay the entire amount.”

            While the initiative is targeting enterprises involved in bio-medical services, alternative fuels, and the digital arts, companies involved in other sectors of the regional economy are also invited to take part.

            She said salary terms will be established on a case-by-case basis and agreed upon prior to the commencement of the internship. The pay can range from the minimum wage of $7.40 to $12 per hour.

            Called the “Community Partners Internship Program,” its parameters were forged by Vandenberg, Lois Brinson Ropes and Karen Phelps.  The latter two oversee the center’s Student Employment Services activities.

            “We see this as the college’s wish to join forces with Southwest Michigan employers to produce and retain a highly talented and trained workforce,” Vandenberg said.

For many enterprises -- and not just those in emerging businesses -- the No. 1 factor for achieving success is finding the right people to fit the right jobs.  Internships are tried-and-true ways to “grow your own” and identify prospects with high potential.           

It’s the classic win-win equation:  great experience for those who are selected as interns and a no-strings-attached arrangement on the part of the employer because internships are basically akin to temporary jobs.           

The employer gets essentially a low-cost look at a potential permanent employee who could either be somebody who would not be a good fit or somebody who has “the right stuff” to be a future leader.           

In order to find that out, interns -- while supervised and operating within a structured work environment " can be given enough autonomy and enough leeway to determine their own direction. 

That allows the employer to evaluate the person’s judgment, how he or she works with other people, and work habits.  Few one-on-one interviews provide those types of measurements.

            “This will give students a strong foundation of work experience,” Vandenberg said, “while providing an opportunity to cultivate professional networks that could jumpstart their careers with businesses in our part of the state.

            “Because of financial constraints,” she said, “many students have not been able to participate in an unpaid internship program. 

KVCC will be able to attract more students in more career paths because of these paid internships.

            “This connection with local businesses will allow students to practically apply what they have been learning in the classroom,” Vandenberg said.  “Better yet, they will bring back that experience to our classrooms and help the college continue to provide relevant training and instructions.”

            KVCC students can apply when they have achieved the skills and education required by the company offering the internship, and when they have completed 50 percent of the course work in their respective majors.

            They will also be required to complete pre-employment-skills training provided by the center’s Student Employment Services. 

This training will include resume writing, effective cover letters, interviewing skills, professional attire, personal hygiene, promptness and dependability, communication skills, and non-verbal behavior.

            Each company can request an intern based on the area of study, skills needed, duties expected, hours of work, and when the person is needed on the job. Each will select an intern based on the organization’s existing hiring methods and criteria.

            According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, nearly 70 percent of interns receive full-time positions from their employers.  This ratio has increased 13 percent since 2001.

            For more information about becoming part of the Community Partners Internship Program, call Vandenberg at (269) 488-4793 or e-mail her at dvandenberg@kvcc.edu.

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