For the seventh year in a row, Western Michigan University’s Business Connection office is helping small businesses in West Michigan by granting them financial awards to hire WMU science, technology, engineering and mathematics students as interns for the summer of 2018.
The program that allows this funding to happen is the Small Company Internship Award (SCIA) program. The program has $35,000 to distribute this year, creating an opportunity for 12 to 14 businesses to hire interns at around $12 per hour, according to a WMU press release. To be considered for the program, businesses must have 250 employees or less and offer an experience in the STEM fields that will benefit both the business and the student.
“The committee is not interested in companies that want students to do tedious tasks, like get coffee or make copies,” said Lisa Garcia, director of WMU’s Business Connection. “We are looking for companies that can provide a great experience for the students and who are actively looking to hire that student after the internship is completed.”
The Internship Award program is funded by a grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation through the Michigan Corporate Relations Network, which is “a program that connects industry to critical university talent in ways that will help the state’s economy grow and prosper,” according to a WMU press release.
“The funding not only provides money for companies to hire an intern for the summer, but also helps expose companies to all of the great student talent we have here at WMU,” Garcia said. “Often, the business has such a great experience with their intern that they end up hiring that student in a part-time or full-time capacity.”
The program also acts as a source of advertisement for a business, as students tend to share their experiences with one another, said Garcia. This generates more interest in the business. Several companies have reported to Garcia that they have made connections with other great WMU students they wouldn’t have met if it weren’t for the initial internship.
“It essentially helps them to create a pipeline of talent for the future,” Garcia said.
With less employees, a smaller business is likely to be able to give student interns more responsibility than they would receive at a larger company. Along with enhancing a resume, this helps students become experienced in many different roles. Through this program, students are also able to learn about innovative work taking place in their own region, Garcia said.
The SCIA program has seen success since it was created in 2011, with 2017’s program providing internships for 137 students at 117 different companies. Of those students, 87 became permanent employees, according to a WMU press release.
This year, because of its accomplishments thus far, the program has expanded from just six Michigan public research universities to any public university in the state, Garcia said. The Business Connections office is anticipating and looking forward to another successful year for the SCIA program.