Mary Switzer| Livingston County Michigan Works! Agency
“The Skills Gap”, “Mass Exodus of Young Adults”, “Good Jobs Unfilled”; these are some of the headlines seen around Michigan in the last two or three years. Generally, the headlines are correct; many entry level workers are deficient in one or more area of skills necessary for the workplace, our new college graduates are choosing to live in other states, and we do have good paying jobs that are unfilled, and all of these problems warrant major efforts to remedy. Livingston County took a step back to consider efficient ways to address all three, and the result is the initiative known as “Intern Livingston”, a comprehensive, county-wide effort to expose high school students, college students, and displaced adult workers to the benefits of living and working in Livingston County. The goal is to change the culture of both business and education in the county where every business is expected to be actively involved in the talent pipeline, and every student is expected to have exposure to work as part of their education experience.
In the spring of 2011 the Livingston County Educational Advisory Group (EAG) reformulated and rebranded itself as the Livingston Business and Education Alliance. The 19-member committee is appointed by the Livingston County Workforce Development Council and consists of business and education leaders, chamber of commerce executives, Workforce Council members, organized labor representatives and other community leaders. As its first initiative, the LBEA looked at the data around the three issues listed above, then began a series of brainstorming activities on how to address them. It was from these sessions that the committee began to connect the dots; we have talented young people unaware of the opportunities in the county, and we had a host of employers unaware of how to tap the local talent market. Out these came the idea of establishing a single point of contact to create a pipeline, connecting the future workforce with employers who have a short term need.
“Intern Livingston” is establishing itself as that pipeline. Kate Roberts, Intern Livingston placement coordinator, is the face and voice behind the initiative. Kate’s primary responsibility is to work with the business community to define, develop, and publicize internships, while being the single point of contact for a business interested in bringing an intern on board. “No longer does an employer need to make multiple calls to our high schools and colleges to find the right person for an internship. Intern Livingston knows which schools have the right technical program and talent to meet an employer’s needs” says Kate.
To increase awareness of the new initiative, Kate launched an aggressive marketing campaign targeted at both students and businesses. The Intern Livingston website, www.internlivingston.org, features an easy-to-use format for employers to post internship opportunities. High school marketing students were engaged to develop posters and other printed materials for display on school lockers, counseling offices, and other locations where youth gather. Facebook, other social media sites are used as recruitment tools. Kate also networks regularly with business groups, teachers, career counselors, economic developers and Michigan Works! staff as part of her ongoing outreach activities.
Kate’s reach also extends to community college partners, and one of her biggest successes occurred when she assisted a whole class of 12 CNC students from Mott Community College with the hiring process at Moeller Aerospace in nearby Wixom. In all, more than 180 high school, college-age and adult students have been placed in internships since the project began.
Working with Intern Livingston makes bringing on short-term help a smooth process for business people as candidates come pre-screened for technical skills. The initiative also provides training sessions for businesses considering internships. “Many people don’t know how to configure a successful internship experience to meet both the business and intern’s expectations” says Kate. “We find that a two hour session with the business representatives makes everything work better.”
Employers are encouraged to use student talent to address a short-term need, as well as to attract well qualified full or part-time long term employees. Several Livingston County companies now start some permanent employees as interns, and offer tuition reimbursement and advancement as inducement for talented workers to stay close to home. One even offers to make college loan payments in return for a long term commitment to employment after an internship.
Bottom line, Intern Livingston creates benefits for both the business and education communities.
Employers can bring on technical help that is pre screened and matched to their needs without making a long term commitment for employment.
Employers can use internships as a trial period, and then ladder interns to full time employment.
Employers can orient interns toward education that meets the needs of the marketplace.
For the Intern:
Internships allow students the chance to experience the workplace in a potential career area prior to making the investment in post secondary education or training.
Interns learn and benefit from employment close to home.
Interns build a resume and expand their education at any level.
For the community:
Our local talent is exposed to the many opportunities and benefits of working in their community.
INTERN LIVINGSTON; KEEPING LOCAL TALENT LOCAL