Metro State gets grant to do 100 paid internships

May mean more students in community businesses

For many, the word "internship" often follows the word "unpaid."
 
Such is often the case for students seeking internships at Metro State University.
 
But thanks to a grant from Great Lakes Higher Education Guaranty Corporation, Metropolitan State University will hook up 100 students with paid internships. 
 
The bank gave $150,000 to the school as part of a larger initiative to create internship opportunities in the Midwest.
 
Overall, it awarded $5.2 million in new grants to 40 colleges and universities in Iowa, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin. 
 
Ten other Minnesota schools got the grant, eight of which are in the metro area.
 
The grant ensures the interns are paid at least $10 an hour. 
 
Not the usual college students
 
According to Victor Cole, who oversees internships at Metro State, the average student there is in his or her mid-30s, works full time and is taking a significant course load, so adding internships to work demands, family needs and schooling can be daunting. And even in the event a student lands an internship, it's typically unpaid.
 
So, adding paid internship opportunities will make it easier for a student to balance an internship with scheduling and budget needs. 
 
"Creating and converting unpaid to paid internships will perhaps open more possibilities for students already making tough choices each day," Cole said.
 
Cole works with a long list of local businesses to get students internships, including large companies like Traveler's and Ecolab. But the grant, along with a partnership with a local business group, could make that easier -- the school will be partnering with the East Side Area Business Association to coordinate many of the internships, helping connect students with East Side businesses.
 
Tim Herman, director of ESABA, said the organization hopes to bring between 35 and 40 students into internships on the East Side. Where specifically they'll end up is still uncertain, but Herman said ESABA has already heard from half a dozen interested businesses. 
 
In addition, ESABA will seek to hire at least two interns, and that the Dayton's Bluff Community Council may also apply for interns. Some students may also end up working in the soon-to-open East Side Enterprise Center.
 
Herman said the grant and the resulting partnership with the school bodes well for the community. The internship program, he said, is another extension of the school's new approach to engaging the community. 
 
ESABA will coordinate placement
 
Herman said ESABA will also work with local businesses to help them write job postings for interns, and manage the interns as needed. 
 
ESABA will screen potential employers to make sure the right interns are being connected with the right companies for their interests, and that they'll be developing usable skills.
 
Generally speaking, "their main work for your company can't be stuffing envelopes," Herman said.
 
Cole added that ESABA will join the Minnesota Association of Experiential Learning, a membership association made up of universities, colleges, and volunteer and internship sites across the metro area.
 
"This will provide ESABA contacts with colleges and universities other than Metropolitan State University in order to possibly meet the great demand for interns and volunteers on the East Side," he said.
 
This is the first time Metropolitan State has received a grant for developing paid internships for its students, Cole said.
Students are already registering for internships for the fall semester, and will be paid via Metro State. 
 
The grant is a one-time grant -- Cole said it was unclear whether the school would reapply for the following school year at this point. In the long term, enthusiasm from partners could kickstart an internship program with independent sources of funding, Cole said.
 
Contact Patrick Larkin at eastside@lillienews.com or at 651-748-7816. Follow him on Twitter at @ESRPatrickLark.
 
 
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