An internship “relief” program launched by The Commons, an initiative of the Greater Milwaukee Committee, is seeking additional corporate partners after a strong initial response by local college students seeking internships amid dwindling opportunities caused by COVID-19 cutbacks.
More than 500 students from over 40 colleges and universities have applied in the first two weeks of the program application being launched, said Michael Hostad, executive director and co-founder of The Commons.
“The need to support interns is far greater than we anticipated,” Hostad said. “We’re in conversations with the business community to identify opportunities for local students, but it’s clear there’s a significant need for these types of opportunities.”
COVID-19 has forced many businesses to eliminate or significantly diminish summer internship opportunities. The internship “relief” program was launched as an affordable virtual experience for the corporation and the student.
Rather than companies forgoing internships or developing their own platform, The Commons is offering a way for corporations and universities to still stay connected to emerging talent.
The Milwaukee Tech Hub Coalition provided $75,000 in initial seed money for the program, enough to fund 25 internships. The Tech Hub will also provide additional support to source technical projects/tools and provide access to technical mentors.
“In addition to the obvious goal of helping these students gain critical skills and stay on track toward their learning goal, we also want to share with these students more about the Milwaukee Tech Community and showcase how they can help solve real issues in some of the world’s most essential industries,” said Kathy Henrich, CEO for the Milwaukee Tech Hub Coalition.
The Milwaukee Tech Hub Coalition is a collaboration of over 20 regional employers including Advocate Aurora, Johnson Controls, Kohl’s, Northwestern Mutual, Rockwell, and WE Energies committed to supporting growth and retention of a tech and innovation-oriented workforce in the greater Milwaukee area along with helping foster business growth and development in the tech and innovation industry sector.
Founding members of the coalition include Accenture, Advocate Aurora Health Care, Johnson Controls, Kohl’s, Northwestern Mutual, and Rockwell Automation.
“Internships play a critical role for students to gain valuable professional experience in addition to building a professional network,” Hostad said. “We’re very appreciative that the Milwaukee Tech Hub has provided support for this initiative and we look forward to working with additional organizations to help provide innovative approaches to filling the void of internships created by the ongoing health crisis.”
Throughout all programming, The Commons team will perform comprehensive assessments and performance reviews. Participating companies will have the opportunity to submit innovation challenges for the program and serve as virtual mentors to maintain engagement with the interns.
“This program aligns well with our talent development priorities which include building a peer network of collegiate technologists from diverse backgrounds, exposing upcoming grads to the amazing opportunities for tech jobs in Milwaukee, and increasing corporate involvement in experiential learning opportunities that build capacity for entry level hiring in the region,” said Laura Schmidt, chief talent development officer for the Milwaukee Tech Hub Coalition.
As part of its support for the program, The Milwaukee Tech Hub Coalition will provide additional skill development and support to those who qualify to be part of the ‘Advanced Tech Team’ who will act as an invaluable resource across project teams.
“These students worked hard to secure the internships they have lost due to COVID-19 and we want to make sure they will be able to learn and apply their skills to solve real-world challenges in a manner that specifically prepares them for the fall recruitment season with our member employers,” said Schmidt.
About The Commons: An initiative of the Greater Milwaukee Committee, The Commons was launched to offer a platform for attracting, developing and retaining talent across southeast Wisconsin. From high school to college to career, The Commons has created a vibrant platform for attracting, developing, and retaining high-quality, future-thinking talent across southeast Wisconsin. The Commons crafts hands-on learning experiences that spark the innovation mindset, build meaningful professional connections, and strengthen community engagement.