It's imperative that colleges and businesses work together to provide students with internship experiences, two experts argue in a USA Today op-ed.
Ray Allen, Wisconsin's secretary for the Department of Workforce Development (DWD), and Ray Cross, the president of the University of Wisconsin (UW) system, took to the national publication to lobby for more industry-higher education collaboration.
Internships both narrow the skills gap and prevent brain drain, they say.
Administering funded internship programs
"Demonstrating professionalism in a work environment provides a potential employer with a glimpse of how an intern can benefit their business long-term and gives them confidence to invest in a young adult's future," Allen and Cross write. "Internships separate potential job candidates."
In March of this year, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed into law a requirement that the Department of Workforce Development ensure two full-time positions exclusively work on connecting students with area businesses—boosting the number of graduates with real-world experience in their field of study.
"This is a win-win for the student, for the employer, for our education and talent development systems, and for Wisconsin's economy," Allen and Cross write.
Preparing students for the workforce
But the process must involve more than just the DWD and UW, they say. They must also educate private universities, technical colleges, and state businesses on the importance of internships.
In Wisconsin, this involves a series of regional workforce alignment workshops involving the UW system, DWD, the Wisconsin Technical College system, the Wisconsin Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, and others.
"Students who participate in internships develop important skills employers are seeking, demonstrate their professionalism to a potential employer, expand their network and acquire experience to add to their resume after graduation," Allen and Cross write. "Employers have the opportunity to see potential employees in action, provide mentorship to help students thrive after graduation, and play an active role in retaining home-grown talent" (Allen/Cross, USA Today, 7/22).
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