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Internship Opportunities Growing In Michigan

Compiled By Yaffa Klugerman
January 13, 2010

In an effort to keep college graduates in the state and cultivate new talent cost-effectively, Michigan employers are working with colleges to help make more internships available.

The Detroit News reports that according to Jim Wojcik, internship coordinator at Central Michigan University, internship opportunities in the area have increased because companies are searching for new talent to replace retiring workers. But unfortunately, he said, nowadays many more internships are unpaid--about 80 percent.

Nevertheless, Wojcik told The Detroit News, "An internship is a win-win. It helps (businesses) as much as it helps students gain tremendous, valuable experience."

The trend may be seen as a surprising one, considering that Michigan leads the country with its high unemployment rate of 15 percent. In addition, internship opportunities in other parts of the country were reported to be scarce last summer, with some families even paying thousands of dollars to land unpaid internships.

But the perception of Michigan as an area with no job opportunities is hurting the area. Experts note that more young people--particularly those between ages 25 and 34--are leaving Michigan to look for jobs elsewhere. Moreover, many businesses have the impression that students don't want to remain, so they recruit from other states.

Internships help address these problems. "We need to keep those demographics here," explained Cindy Brown, project manager for the West Michigan Strategic Alliance's Internship Initiative, who was quoted in The Grand Rapids Press. "They're very independent economically, and they bring such great new fresh ideas."

To help attract more young people to the region, the alliance is offering free training to employers who want to start or improve internship programs. The group also partnered with other organizations to create interninmichigan.com, a Web site which links students to internship opportunities.

The Detroit News reports that since the Web site's launch in April, over 8,000 interns have registered, and 750 employers have posted or filled more than 400 internships. The site is only open to Michigan-based employers, but anyone in the country can apply.

Similarly, The Detroit News reports that the Royal Oak Business Association recently teamed up with Michigan State University to create an internship program in the area. Like interninmichigan.com, the goal is to attract and retain young blood.

"With so many (college students) leaving the state after graduation, our goal is to showcase Royal Oak to students who don't know about it or know very little about it," said David Baldwin, president of the Royal Oak Business Association, in The Detroit News.

According to an MSU study, the number of students leaving the state has doubled since 2001, from 24 percent in 2001 to 49 percent in 2007. But Paul Jaques, an internship developer at the university, told The Detroit News that students would be more inclined to stay if they were more aware of job opportunities in Michigan.

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