Building Talent Through Internships

Last week, an editorial on the local news radio station caught the ear of several Greater Ohio staffers.  The commentator, Gail Martineau, highlighted several programs which are aimed at retaining college graduates in Ohio.  In particular, Martineau attributed internships programs as being one of the most important tools in the state’s arsenal. Research by Collegia, a higher education economic development consulting firm, confirms Martineau’s hunch: out-of-region students who interned in Philadelphia were twice as likely to stay in the city after graduation and undoubtedly, the number is higher for in-region students.  Although there are differences between Ohio’s shrinking cities and Philadelphia, similar retention rates likely occur.

Many of the internships listed on clearinghouses like EasyColumbus, NEOIntern in Cleveland, and SOCHE in southwest Ohio are located in cities.  This isn’t surprising actually because the state’s cities turn Ohio’s economic motor; the seven largest metros concentrate talent and innovation and contribute to 80% of the state’s GDP.

Cities like Akron and Springfield have recognized that to increase the number of local jobs and the city’s prosperity, education and workforce development will carry the metro into the next economy.  Internships will be one critical strategy as Akron and other Ohio cities continue to leverage their assets and prosperity drivers.  The state can play an important role in this process by supporting internships programs, as it does now with the Third Frontier Internship Program and the proposed funding for the Ohio Co-op and Internship Program.

Ohio has one of the largest collections of colleges and universities in the country— using internships to capitalize on the presence of so many young, eager, educated people not only brings fresh talent to businesses and gives students real-life work experience, but internships can also help retain the creative, highly-trained workers needed for the state’s long term competitive success.