A new project developed by the Virginia Tech Center for Economic and Community Engagement will leverage existing initiatives to increase the number of paid internships and work-based learning opportunities in Region 2.
The project, called the GO Virginia Region 2 Internship Collaborative, will be supported by the State Council on Higher Education for Virginia.
The applicant team consisted of the Center for Economic and Community Engagement, with individuals from Radford University, Virginia Tech, the Lynchburg Regional Business Alliance, Onward New River Valley, the Roanoke Regional Partnership, the Roanoke Blacksburg Technology Council, the United Way of Southwest Virginia, and the Virginia Biotechnology Association. The Center for Economic and Community Engagement also extends an invitation to other partners to collaborate.
GO Virginia Region 2, consisting of the New River Valley, Roanoke-Alleghany, and Lynchburg areas, has more college students per capita than any part of the state. However, a large amount of talent in Region 2 leaves to seek opportunities elsewhere, and the region struggles to fill jobs.
“Employers in the New River Valley must take a proactive approach when it comes to attracting and retaining young professionals,” said James Cabler, Director of Business Engagement at Onward NRV. “Being visible on campus and building connections with students is a great way for local employers to expose students to their company culture and what makes them unique. Once students can visualize a pathway to success within a company, there is a greater chance that they will remain in the region post-graduation.”
The Collaborative hopes to raise awareness of learning experiences for students in the region, increase internship placements, and help fill more full-time positions.
The Collaborative will also strengthen the internship ecosystem in Region 2 by working to connect the many GO Virginia Region 2 projects that support internships and work-based learning opportunities.
Some of these Region 2 projects include Stopping the Brain Drain, Ignite, the Experiential Learning in Tech Employment (ELITE) Internship Program, Developing a Destination for Talent, and a statewide initiative led by the Virginia Biotechnology Association, Carilion Clinic, and Virginia Tech that is focused on internships in the region’s life sciences sector.
The Stopping the Brain Drain initiative produced a report that several groups, including the Lynchburg Regional Business Alliance, Onward New River Valley, and the Roanoke Regional Partnership, have drawn on to connect employers and students.
“Internships and project-based learning provide an opportunity to brand our companies and region as a great option after college. The Brain Drain study revealed that students on our regional campuses didn’t have a strong perception of professional opportunities. By mixing students and companies, our region has a better chance of keeping students on graduation day,” said John Hull, Executive Director of the Roanoke Regional Partnership, the main grantee for the Stopping the Brain Drain Project.
The Collaborative will meet members where they are, building on the existing programs and initiatives and seeking to leverage their unique goals and objectives.
“It is critical to recognize that the needs of different parts of the region, different industries, and different groups of students are not identical,” said John Provo, director of the Center for Economic and Community Engagement.
The Collaborative’s activities include conducting and sharing an inventory of programs, recruiting new employers, sharing tools developed by the Virginia Talent Opportunity Partnership, and holding an annual collaborative event to connect employers and students.
“This collaborative effort will allow universities, employers, and economic development groups to work together across the region to share approaches and develop a comprehensive system that can help cultivate and retain talent. With the knowledgeable and dedicated team that is engaged it will be a great opportunity to address student and employer needs,” said Catherine Amelink, Associate Vice Provost for Learning Systems Innovation at Virginia Tech and project lead for Developing a Destination for Talent.
“Work-based learning is essential for students today as they explore career options and employer options throughout their educational tenure, helping to develop more confident and competitive college graduates who persist to degree completion and are ready for post-college work,” said Provo.
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