By Stephanie Benhart
Business Career Services keeps its students ahead of the pack with local business internships. BCS facilitates student internships through programs like InternConnect and the Illinois Board of Higher Education Work Study Grant. Intern Connect is a new initiative developed by the Champaign County Alliance, a service organization for the Champaign County Chamber of Commerce, the Champaign County Economic Development Corporation (EDC) and the Champaign County Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB).
As a community-based organization, the Alliance looks for opportunities to provide value to the Champaign County business community and to offer a service that will support economic development efforts. With the InternConnect program, the Alliance acts as the middle-man bringing the University and local businesses together to provide a win-win situation for the businesses and for students. “Through the InternConnect program, the Alliance acts as the middle-man by reaching out to local businesses and based on their needs connecting them to specific Career Services professionals within the University,” said Amy Fruehling, Senior Associate Director of Business Career Services. Career Service professionals often work with companies to develop a tailored internship program that benefits both the business and the student. “We have witnessed remarkable successes,” said Fruehling. “Exemplary work by interns has shown businesses what options they have in their own backyard.”
Senior in finance and business administration, Chris Levin, appreciates and makes use of all Business Career Services has to offer, which has resulted in multiple internships for him. His internships provided the necessary experience and have enhanced his “business acumen and professionalism in the workplace” to provide additional skills he will need when he graduates in December. “Overall, their [BCS] willingness to help and their ability to get quality companies to continuously recruit here are major advantages that I hope everyone is aware of,” said Levin.
Having local businesses provide internships has many collateral benefits for both students and the community. These local internships allow students to work during the school year to gain experience in their desired field and money. “They give students an opportunity to try out skills and knowledge they have learned in the classroom,” Fruehling said. Local internship opportunities introduce students to the community outside of campus, and may encourage recent grads to consider remaining in the Champaign area post graduation. Local businesses benefit from the skilled workforce and the University’s relationship with the local business community is strengthened through such programs.
The Illinois Board of Higher Education grant offers an additional incentive for local internships. The grant helps employers fund internships by reimbursing businesses for a portion of the students’ wages. In many cases, this allows a small business the ability to attract and hire student talent and provide appropriate wages without undue burden.