The Herald Bulletin

April 25, 2014

Coalition director: Internships key to stopping 'brain drain'

By Zach Osowski
The Herald Bulletin

---- — ANDERSON — Mark Finger, director of the Madison County education coalition, said his organization's goal is to stop the "brain drain" that is taking place in Anderson and the rest of the county.

The drain refers to the community losing the best students to jobs outside of the county instead of keeping the smart, innovative, young students in the area.

He said the coalition, which includes local businesses, schools and governments, tries through many different ways to hire local people and keep them in the area.

The coalition met Friday at Hoosier Park Casino to hear a talk about internships and how getting students into a company early could be the best way to keep them locally employed.

Janet Boston, with Indiana INTERNnet, spoke to local leaders about the benefits of internships and how more interns are becoming employees after graduation.

"Now internships are almost an extended interview," Boston said. "Lots of jobs never even make it to the job boards online because companies hire an intern."

She said an internship can provide valuable experience for the intern as well. She said internships can be a confirmation that they enjoy their future line of work, or it can be a sign to change career tracks.

Boston said sometimes companies are hesitant to hire an intern because of cost or difficulty finding someone qualified. Boston said INTERNnet's website is a place for companies to find interns and vice versa.

The website is a job search engine but is strictly for interns. Students looking for jobs can create profiles and businesses looking for workers can post internship openings.

As far as affording an intern, that's where Amanda Stanley comes in. Stanley works for the Indiana Commission for Higher Education and also spoke at the meeting Friday. She said her department will make a 50 percent match on any intern pay as long as the student meets certain qualification.

"If you pay your intern $10 an hour, we'll reimburse you $5," Stanley said. "If you want to hire a second intern, now you'll be able to afford that."

Both Stanley and Boston stressed it is illegal to have an unpaid intern. While compensation can vary, it must be at the federal minimum wage level.

Finger said after the talk that he was impressed with the information provided to the members of the coalition.

"I thought we had a good discussion," Finger said. "Any tool we can use to keep our students here is important to us."

Follow Zach Osowski on Twitter @Osowski_THB, or call 640-4847.

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