Traverse City Record-Eagle

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May 24, 2012

Forum: Internships a solution to brain drain

It's no secret that the state's "brain drain" is an issue that has driven many of our young professionals and college graduates away from Michigan. The reason is clear — a high unemployment rate and a perceived lack of jobs.

So at Intern in Michigan, a free online engine that matches state-based employers in a wide range of fields with interns looking to build their careers, we have made an effort to help reverse our state's "brain drain." Since I started working on this initiative, my team and I have learned a great deal about talent attraction and retention in our state.

What we have learned is that despite what we hear on the news, hundreds of companies are looking for college educated talent and thousands of students are seeking internship placements in Michigan. And this interest spans the state in a wide variety of industries.

Internships are a proven way to attract and retain talent into companies of all sizes and industries. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, companies converted 58 percent of their interns into full-time employees last year and about 83 percent of students stay in the region where they intern.

When we hear that during the last 10 years roughly 50 percent of college graduates have left the state to find employment elsewhere, we know most of them are never coming back.

Since Intern in Michigan's launch of new technology in November 2012, more than 900 companies have posted more than 2,000 internship opportunities across the state. These internships represent diverse careers at a range of companies. And nearly 10,000 students from colleges and universities throughout the country have registered on the site to pursue these opportunities. These numbers increase daily.

What this state needs is an effective way to connect employers with qualified students based on specific job requirements and the skills and interests of the candidates.

We encourage employers to hire interns because it is free to post opportunities and it is easy use. In addition to providing employers and students with a central location to post and find internships across the state, it helps students get noticed by employers based on their skills and interests and provides employers with an easy-to-access pool of pre-screened candidates.

It is important for us to remember that we are trying to fundamentally change the perception that Michigan lacks both talent and opportunity. We believe that attracting and retaining college-educated talent in Michigan is a team sport and requires statewide collaboration.

Public statements by Gov. Rick Snyder supporting Intern in Michigan and partnerships with the Small Business Association of Michigan and American Society of Employers indicate we are making positive strides.

We invite associations, chambers of commerce and government agencies, employers and our young professionals and college students to partner with us to help to spread the word — hiring interns in Michigan will create a strong foundation for reversing the "brain drain." The future of our state's economy is at stake.

About the author: Wendy Pittman is the executive director of Intern in Michigan. By telephone at: (313) 223-2515; by e-mail at: wendy.pittman@thedigeratiprocess.com.

About the forum: The forum is a periodic column of opinion written by Record-Eagle readers in their areas of interest or expertise. Submissions of 500 words or less may be made by e-mailing letters@record-eagle.com. Please include biographical information and a photo.

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