In today’s job market, internships are a proven means to secure employment after graduation. A well-written resume and cover letter goes a long way, but demonstrating professionalism in a work environment provides a potential employer with a glimpse of how an intern can benefit their business long-term and gives them confidence to invest in a young adult’s future. Internships separate potential job candidates. It’s no wonder that students who participate in college internships are more likely to find employment quickly after graduation than those who do not.
Governor Walker had that in mind when he signed legislation in March 2016 that requires the Department of Workforce Development (DWD) to dedicate two full-time positions to connecting students with state businesses in an effort to expand the number of college students who graduate with hands on work experience in their chosen field. These positions will work collaboratively with four-year universities, technical colleges and Wisconsin businesses. The legislation was part of Governor Walker’s package to make college more affordable for Wisconsin’s students and families.
In the University of Wisconsin (UW) System, teaching and learning is at the heart of the university experience. We encourage internships as the means to provide important educational and workplace opportunities for students. When a student participates in an internship with a Wisconsin organization, their success increases dramatically, along with the possibility of retaining their talent in the state. This is a win-win for the student, for the employer, for our education and talent development systems, and for Wisconsin’s economy.
We know the key is making that first connection. To this end, we are strengthening our partnerships not only between DWD and the UW System, but we’re also working closely with technical colleges, private universities, and business stakeholders to build awareness of the value of internships for students and employers across Wisconsin.
On July 15, we took important first steps at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, which hosted the first of several regional workforce alignment workshops planned between DWD, the University of Wisconsin System, Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS), the Wisconsin Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (WAICU), and other partners.
Wisconsin’s economy is thriving; our unemployment is lower than the national average, our labor force participation rate is higher and there are more people employed today in Wisconsin than any other time in the state’s history. While this is great news for our economy, it also underscores the challenge that employers across Wisconsin face in finding qualified talent to fill openings.
At the DWD and UW System, we join WTCS and WAICU partners in encouraging Wisconsin employers, HR professionals and others to attend, including businesses with internship programs and others who want more information about starting one.
Students who participate in internships develop important skills employers are seeking, demonstrate their professionalism to a potential employer, expand their network and acquire experience to add to their resume after graduation. Employers have the opportunity to see potential employees in action, provide mentorship to help students thrive after graduation, and play an active role in retaining home-grown talent that can pursue the American Dream in Wisconsin.
For more information about upcoming regional Workforce Alignment Workshops, please contact DWD Office of Skills Development Director David Karst at David.Karst@dwd.wisconsin.gov.