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WEDC launches online tool for business internship programs

To make it easier for businesses to launch their own internship programs, the University of Wisconsin System and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) have introduced the Talent Generator, a new online tool offering smart tips and best practices for creating and sustaining a successful student talent development program.

The easy-to-use, no-cost tool was unveiled today by UW System President Ray Cross and WEDC Secretary and CEO Missy Hughes. They were joined by university career services representatives, regional economic development officials, and local business leaders who expressed support for how the new Talent Generator will complement their own efforts to help employers expand workforce opportunities.

The online Talent Generator is designed to help small and medium-sized companies develop and sustain successful internship programs. It will help Wisconsin further solidify its reputation as a national leader in student internships.

Officials announced the new online reference at Market & Johnson, an Eau Claire–based construction company that manages its own highly successful internship program and helped develop the new instructional modules. Hiring managers from American Family Insurance, ProHealth Care, and Royal Credit Union also provided video testimonials describing the important role internships play in their efforts to attract, develop, and retain talent.

UW System President Cross said internships are one way to help Wisconsin build its workforce by retaining more graduates from state colleges and universities. Like many other states, Wisconsin faces a growing shortage of workers in the next decade.

“Today, more than 80 percent of UW System graduates live in Wisconsin five years after graduation, and we see this new resource as one more tool to help that number grow,” Cross said. “Our goal with the Talent Generator is to increase the odds every student in the state’s largest talent pipeline—the UW System—has an opportunity to secure an internship. We know every time a student secures an internship with a Wisconsin employer, the likelihood of them staying here increases.”

WEDC Secretary Hughes added that WEDC already has launched other successful programs to attract and retain Wisconsin workers.

“Businesses told us it would be useful to have a primer on internships to help ensure successful outcomes for both hiring managers and mentors, and for the students involved,” Hughes said.

“Small and medium-sized firms, typically the fastest-growing segment of our state economy, often run very lean and may not have the capacity to launch these types of learning experiences. This innovative resource helps reduce some of the barriers to tapping the student talent pipeline in Wisconsin.”

The Talent Generator leverages the online learning platform developed by UW Extended Campus, creating an interactive tool for businesses to explore the critical elements of a successful internship program. According to Aaron Brower, Executive Director for UW Extended Campus, the intern program highlights several key areas: internship basics, legal requirements, best practices, and keys to supervising. The modules are free to all users and available at this link: https://ce.uwex.edu/talent-generator/

Woven throughout the online training modules are resources to connect with local college and university academic and career services offices. The intent is to assist businesses in leveraging the knowledge, expertise, and connections these advisers have with students. As Jerry Shea, President of Market & Johnson, notes, “It’s not just about showing up at career fairs. You have to build ongoing and meaningful connections with the campuses all year long.”

Internship programs are the focus of growing attention within higher education, according to UW-Madison’s Dr. Matthew Hora. He is a widely recognized scholar of career development initiatives and the study of 21st-century competencies in the workplace.

Already, UW System students participate in internships, co-ops, or other work-based learning opportunities at a rate higher than the national average. Of seniors in spring 2017, 56 percent participated in an internship or field experience compared to 47 percent nationally.

Learn more at UW System Career Connect. The site includes links to career service offices at UW System, Wisconsin Technical College System, and Wisconsin Association of Independent Colleges and Universities institutions across the state.

David Callender is with the WEDC and can be reached at (608) 210-6706.