Nov. 20, 2012
Internship program aims to keep students in New York
A new internship program from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) and the Community and Regional Development Institute (CaRDI) is responding to an increasing need in New York to attract and retain young talent by giving students a rare opportunity to shape the places they work, as well as their future careers.
The CALS New York State (NYS) internship program, launching its pilot phase in 2013, provides CALS students with work experience embedded in their communities. Like typical summer internships, students work for 10 weeks with businesses, nonprofit organizations and government agencies in New York. But unlike the standard experience, interns devote 20 percent of each workweek to a community engagement project. In the first year, this project will focus on helping attract and retain educated young people in upstate New York's Canal Corridor.
"This program goes beyond the typical internship. Interns will build their résumé with solid work experience in their field while also planting a seed in the community for future growth. Ideally, these opportunities will allow students to develop lasting relationships with their internship hosts and the community and region where that host is based," said Heidi Mouillesseaux-Kunzman, CALS NYS internship program coordinator and CaRDI extension associate.
Students will receive a stipend for summer work that includes their employment with internship hosts and collaborating with other interns on the community engagement project. Projects will vary by region, but all interns will be encouraged to connect with local economic development councils, chambers of commerce and other public-sector organizations. In addition to the summer stipend, students will receive two course credits for completing an eight-week orientation class in the spring and making a joint presentation with other students in the fall.
"Anecdotal evidence from companies suggests that students recruited to work in regions where they grew up are more likely to return for employment, and students who invest themselves in those communities are also more attracted to staying," said Joe Vinciquerra, director of corporate and foundation relations for CALS and co-developer of the internship program. "By building relationships between interns and communities, this program will hopefully lead to greater retention of talent or shorten the length of time young professionals leave the region before returning for the long term."
Vinciquerra said many "incredible" companies across New York struggle to retain Cornell graduates largely because of young workers' perceptions about what communities have to offer. One of these is Beech-Nut Nutrition Corp., a global infant nutrition company headquartered in Amsterdam, N.Y. The company was instrumental in shaping the CALS NYS internship program and has already committed to hosting interns.
"For Beech-Nut, being in a somewhat rural upstate New York community presents a greater challenge to finding a good talent pipeline. This program will help us and other similar businesses. For students, this is not just a 'check the box' job on a résumé. Interns are accountable for how they represent themselves in a business setting and within the community, which is part of everyone's corporate citizenship. We believe all parties -- students, universities, businesses -- have an important part to play in making this work," said Amy McGrath, director of human resources for Beech-Nut.
The CALS NYS internship program is accepting applications from CALS majors and minors in their sophomore or junior year. The program begins with a one-credit orientation course in spring 2013. More information isavailable online or email CALSNYSInternship@cornell.edu.
Sarah Thompson is a freelance writer based in Trumansburg, N.Y.