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Universities partner with local industry for student internships, economic development

Universities partner with local industry for student internships, economic development

March 4, 2015 at 12:00am

In an unprecedented collaboration, South Florida’s colleges and universities have united with industry leaders to strengthen the region’s economy and create new internship opportunities for Miami’s best students.

The new Talent Development Network (TDN) will offer college students hundreds of newly created internships in key South Florida industries where highest job growth is predicted. TDN will educate both students and employers on best practices for leveraging and creating meaningful internships.  The program will also encourage students to stay and build their careers in South Florida through a specially designed civic engagement and leadership program that’s part of the internship.

In addition, K-12 and university educators are working with local business and industry leaders to align classroom curricula and training with the job skills students will need in the future.

TDN is the first major initiative of the Academic Leaders Council of “One Community One Goal,” a strategic plan to enhance economic development in South Florida. Led by the Beacon Council, South Florida’s economic development agency, One Community One Goal focuses on seven target industries and the educational system that supports economic prosperity. The Academic Leaders Council is an alliance of Miami’s six major higher education institutions, along with the public school system, in support of the strategic plan.

“We’ve grown up and so has Miami-Dade,” said FIU President Mark B. Rosenberg. “To further advance as a city of the future with a diverse economy, a global economy, it starts right here in the classroom.”

Surveys of South Florida’s industry and business sectors identified the need to better nurture Miami’s talented students so they are workforce ready. Simultaneously, One Community One Goal aims to strengthen the local economy so that Miami’s most talented young minds can build successful careers in South Florida and become the industry leaders of the future.

This spring, TDN will launch a free online portal that consolidates newly created paid internship opportunities at Miami’s top companies for students at FIU, Barry University, Florida Memorial University, Miami-Dade County Public Schools, Miami Dade College, St. Thomas University and the University of Miami.

Described as meets Monster, the TDN website brings together students and job recruiters in one easy-to-use site. So far, American Airlines, Baptist Health South Florida, Dosal Tobacco Corporation and the Miami Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau have signed on as early supporters.

Students will be able to log in and peruse internship listings; however, in order to apply, the university’s career services office must first sign off on their profile.  At FIU, Career Services staff will review resumes and assist students with interview skills prior to their application. The Beacon Council has also established an agreement with CareerSource South Florida to assist students free-of-charge with resumes and interview skills. Students will have the option of visiting any of the CareerSource satellite offices in the region.

Also good news for students: Companies can list only paid internships in the Talent Development Network.

According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers 63 percent of paid interns received at least one job offer after graduation, while only 37 percent of unpaid interns got an offer. Overall, paid interns did significantly better than other job applicants: The median starting salary for new grads with paid internship experience is $51,930—far outdistancing their counterparts with an unpaid internship earning a median salary of $35,721.

“Students are getting access to a much bigger market,” said Steve Rojas Tallon, the TDN program lead who is coordinating the effort between all the institutions, overseeing the development of the online portal and heading the recruitment effort. “It’s all one in place. When you join forces you get that much greater and focused impact.”

The internships will be offered in the seven key industries of One Community One Goal:

  • Hospitality and tourism
  • Information technology
  • Banking and finance,
  • Life sciences and healthcare
  • Trade and logistics
  • Creative industries
  • Aviation

To identify the target industries, the Beacon Council commissioned a study looking at local and national demand trends with the 600-plus occupations in the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics database. The occupations within these industries are forecasted to have high rates of growth and to hire large numbers of workers in the future.

“We are creating talent pools for our industries and affording not just the large companies to have interns but the small and medium businesses that make up the bulk of Miami-Dade County business,” said Joe Hovancak, vice president of Strategic Planning & Market Development at The Beacon Council. “We are going to show the companies that recruit outside Miami that the talent is here.”

FIU educational leaders are already meeting with leaders of the seven industries to examine how degree programs can better prepare students for the jobs of tomorrow.

“Our approach is to be a solution center for the community,” said Rosenberg, who, along with the presidents of all six higher education institutions and the superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools, sits on the Academic Leaders Council. “We believe in these sectors of opportunity that have been identified by One Community One Goal…You will find significant FIU investments in these areas as a consequence of the direction highlighted by One Community One Goal.”

The buzz term being used within One Community One Goal is “educational ecosystem.” With widespread community buy-in, South Florida leaders are developing a network that unifies education — the K-12 public school system, the colleges and universities, various job-training programs — with industry and business to support economic development.

“It’s internships but it’s so much bigger than that,” said Nicole Kaufman, assistant vice president of FIU’s Office of Engagement, which has been integrally involved in the project. “We are coming around the table with an intentional strategy to prepare and retain our talent for the growth industries identified through One Community One Goal.”

Behind the scenes, a research analyst will be tracking the success of the Talent Development Network by looking at a number of measures including employer satisfaction with the interns, the numbers of students who have already started their careers before graduating and the numbers of students who receive a position where they interned.

This initiative will serve as national best practice for other communities seeking to align education and industry to promote economic prosperity, said Hovancak.

“This is really a game changer,” he said. “The champions of our industry who are leading the target industries for growth are partnering with the academic institutions and together they are creating the Talent Development Network. When we talk about this we get word like, ‘brilliant’ and ‘awesome’ and ‘This is just what we need.’ “