Internship Program Seeks to Retain College Graduates

By Assemblyman Will Barclay
There has been a lot of talk in recent years about how our region can retain our talent.

One way vested community members and employers can assist is through working directly with colleges.

One venue that provides a virtual terminal is a program called Project-ION.

This is an internship program managed by CenterState CEO (Corporation for Economic Opportunity) that pairs interns with employers.

Project-ION, in conjunction with CenterState CEO, was developed in 2006 as a tool for talent retention.

The program reports that over the last two years, it saw a dramatic dip in the number of businesses offering internships.

Recently, businesses expressed a greater need for interns.

This is a good sign in our regional economy and hopefully means that more are hiring.

Project-ION recently hosted its first “virtual flash mob” to celebrate its revival in the beginning of September.

More businesses posted their fall 2012 and spring 2013 internship opportunities and organizers wanted to spread the word about how they can serve to better connect employers with prospective interns.

There are nearly 140,000 students who study in the region each year.

Project-ION lists internships from all over the region and gives employers access to a database of interns.

It reaches 21 counties, 48 colleges and universities and more than 200,000 regional college students across the region.

More than 200 employers participate and there are 2,500 registered students.

According to its organizers, we can’t afford to wait until students graduate to try to attract them to staying.

If we want to successfully raise our retention rate, we must demonstrate that there are quality opportunities here.

We must do so while students are in school. Project-ION does this by facilitating the relationship between businesses and students.

Currently, college graduate retention rate is at 4% in our region.

The average college graduate retention rate is 8%.

Project-ION hopes to increase that retention rate to at least the national average.

According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, 60% of employers offer full-time positions to students who intern with them; and 85% of employers who hire a former intern find that these employees have a higher retention rate than other employees.

The site is relatively easy to use.

Students can log onto and post their resume and search through opportunities.

Likewise, businesses can also post opportunities and search resumes.

Both students and businesses are offered free access to each other.

Project-ION also hosts informational session and supports businesses looking to start a program.

The program is not limited to “enrolled students.”

It’s a privately funded program and job searchers can also enroll as an intern.

Businesses and interns can enroll at

On the site there is a pdf handbook that businesses can read which gives basic information about having an intern and how best to manage one on site.

It also outlines some basic labor laws and terms as well as giving some direction on how to select the right intern for your business.

To learn more, you may also call Elle Hanna at 315-470-1800 or email her at [email protected]

If you have any questions or comments on this or any other state issue, or if you would like to be added to my mailing list or receive my newsletter, please contact my office.

My office can be reached by mail at 200 N. Second St., Fulton, NY 13069, by e-mail at [email protected] or by calling (315) 598-5185.

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