To make it easier for businesses to launch their own internship programs, the University of Wisconsin System and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) have introduced the Talent Generator, a new online tool offering smart tips and best practices for creating and sustaining a successful student talent development program.

The easy-to-use, no-cost tool was unveiled Nov. 12 by UW System President Ray Cross and WEDC Secretary and CEO Missy Hughes. They were joined by university career services representatives, regional economic development officials, and local business leaders who expressed support for how the new Talent Generator will complement their own efforts to help employers expand workforce opportunities.

The online Talent Generator is designed to help small and medium-sized companies develop and sustain successful internship programs. It will help Wisconsin further solidify its reputation as a national leader in student internships.

Officials announced the new online reference at Market & Johnson, an Eau Claire–based construction company that manages its own highly successful internship program and helped develop the new instructional modules.

Hiring managers from American Family Insurance, ProHealth Care, and Royal Credit Union also provided video testimonials describing the important role internships play in their efforts to attract, develop, and retain talent. 

UW System President Cross said internships are one way to help Wisconsin build its workforce by retaining more graduates from state colleges and universities. Like many other states, Wisconsin faces a growing shortage of workers in the next decade.

“Today, more than 80 percent of UW System graduates live in Wisconsin five years after graduation, and we see this new resource as one more tool to help that number grow,” Cross 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. We know every time a student secures an internship with a Wisconsin employer, the likelihood of them staying here increases.”

Hughes added that WEDC already has launched other successful 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,” Hughes said.

“Small and medium-sized firms, typically the fastest growing segment of our state economy, often run very lean and may not have the capacity to launch these types of learning experiences," Hughes added. "This innovative resource helps reduce some of the barriers to tapping the student talent pipeline in Wisconsin.” 

The Talent Generator leverages the online learning platform developed by UW Extended Campus, creating an interactive tool for businesses to explore the critical elements of a successful internship program.

According to Aaron Brower, Executive Director for UW Extended Campus, the intern program highlights several key areas: internship basics, legal requirements, best practices, and keys to supervising.  The modules are free to all users and available at this link: https://ce.uwex.edu/talent-generator/  

If a company does not have an internship program, knowing where to start and understanding the key building blocks can be daunting, according to Staci Heidtke, Associate Director of Career Services with UW-Eau Claire’s Advising, Retention and Career Center.

“This new resource is amazing," Heidtke added, "and it provides a valuable tool for regional businesses looking to start the process of hiring interns.”

Woven throughout the online training modules are resources to connect with local college and university academic and career services offices. The intent is to assist businesses in leveraging the knowledge, expertise, and connections these advisers have with students.

“It’s not just about showing up at career fairs," As Jerry Shea, President of Market & Johnson, said. "You have to build ongoing and meaningful connections with the campuses all year long.”

Internship programs are the focus of growing attention within higher education, according to UW-Madison’s Dr. Matthew Hora. He is a widely recognized scholar of career development initiatives and the study of 21st century competencies in the workplace.

“As a learning scientist who acknowledges how well-crafted experiential learning spaces can be transformative for students – professionally, intellectually, and socially – one of my goals is to see that high-quality internships are made available to every college student," Hora said. "This new program from UW System is one more step in the process of helping to ensure quality outcomes.” 

“One of the goals of UW System’s 2020FWD strategic framework is to provide every student with the opportunity to experience at least two high-impact learning practices, including internships," Cross said. "Building our state’s talent pipeline, and supporting our future economic vitality, is influenced by our ability to prepare students for the world of work.” 

Already, UW System students participate in internships, co-ops, or other work-based learning opportunities at a rate higher than the national average. Of seniors in spring 2017, 56 percent participated in an internship or field experience compared to 47 percent nationally. 

Learn more at UW System Career Connect. The site includes links to career service offices at UW System, Wisconsin Technical College System, and Wisconsin Association of Independent Colleges and Universities institutions across the state.

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) leads economic development efforts for the state by advancing and maximizing opportunities in Wisconsin for businesses, communities, and people to thrive in a globally competitive environment. Working with more than 600 regional and local partners, WEDC develops and delivers solutions representative of a highly responsive and coordinated economic development network. Visit wedc.org or follow WEDC on Twitter @WEDCNews to learn more.

The University of Wisconsin System serves approximately 170,000 students. Awarding nearly 37,000 degrees annually, the UW System is Wisconsin’s talent pipeline, putting graduates in position to increase their earning power, contribute to their communities, and make Wisconsin a better place to live. 

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