Ask employers their biggest worry and the usual answer is “finding enough talent.” Ask the same question to college students near graduation and “finding a job” is their reply. The University of Wisconsin System and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. hope to solve both concerns with the Talent Generator, a new online tool designed to help small and mid-sized businesses develop a successful internship program.
In announcing the program in mid-November, UW System President Ray Cross said internships are one way to help Wisconsin build its workforce by retaining more graduates from state colleges and universities. Internships, at their very core, are a talent development system, he said.
“Our goal with the Talent Generator is to increase the odds every student in the state’s largest talent pipeline — the UW System — has an opportunity to secure an internship,” Cross said. “We know every time a student secures an internship with a Wisconsin employer, the likelihood of them staying here (after graduation) increases.”
UW Extended Campus developed the Talent Generator as a one-stop shop for those businesses that are interested in developing an internship program but unsure where to start, says Aaron Brower, the division’s executive director. He says Talent Generator contains step-by-step instructions for businesses to develop, implement and sustain an internship program.
“The site’s video topics include information on the benefits of hosting interns, including the potential to hire those students full time, and the legal requirements for employing interns and suggestions on how to supervise and mentor students,” Brower says.
WEDC Secretary Missy Hughes said in a statement that the Talent Generator fits well with the organization’s other programs to attract and retain Wisconsin workers.
“Businesses told us it would be useful to have a primer on internships to help ensure successful outcomes for both hiring managers and mentors, and for the students involved,” she said.
Talent Generator modules are free to all users, and businesses can go through them at their own pace. Eau Claire-based construction company Market & Johnson helped develop the new modules, while hiring managers from American Family Insurance, ProHealth Care and Royal Credit Union provided video testimonials about the vital role internships play in their efforts to attract, develop and retain talent.
Brower says the online training modules include resources and information on how businesses can connect with local colleges and their career services offices. The intent is to allow businesses to leverage the knowledge, expertise and connections the advisers have with students, he says. In Northeast Wisconsin, both UW-Green Bay and UW-Oshkosh are part of the new initiative and have contacts listed on the website to help businesses connect with prospective interns.
A solid base
University of Wisconsin System students participate in internships or other work-based learning experiences at a higher rate than nationally, with 56 percent of seniors participating in an internship or other field work, compared to 47 percent nationally in 2017.
Businesses can learn more about the Talent Generator and connect with regional college contacts at ce.uwex.edu/talent-generator.