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Indiana Tech Internship Program Builds Workplace Skills

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An Indiana university has teamed up with a nonprofit in that state to launch a new kind of tech-oriented work-and-learn internship model. Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) is working with TechPoint on "Xtern Semester," which bundles summer internships at Indianapolis companies with senior-year part-time jobs as well as special training and networking opportunities. TechPoint is an economic development initiative specifically targeting Indiana's tech ecosystem.

TechPoint already runs Xtern, a competitive program that places seniors into "well-paying" summer internships in technical roles over the summer, which includes free housing on IUPUI's campus and programming to help participants experience Indianapolis, make friends and develop professionally. The benefit of this approach, according to Mike Langellier, TechPoint's president and CEO, is that it draws people who might not otherwise give the city a second look.

"Over the past five years, only 19 percent of incoming Xterns said they were likely to work in Indianapolis after graduation. But after the program, 73 percent say they are likely to live in Indianapolis, and nearly 80 percent who receive job offers from their intern employers accept them," he said in a statement. "This illustrates the ability of the program, the tech community and the city to compel and convert talent when exposed to the opportunities."

The intent of the new program, he added, was to go beyond the summer experience and build up a "year-round pipeline of talent into the Indianapolis tech ecosystem."

Under the new structure, in fall, Xtern Semester participants will resume their senior-year classes at IUPUI and continue to work at their employers for at least 20 hours a week, earning academic credit for that work. They'll also continue receiving access to workshops on soft skills and workplace readiness.

The first cohort will have 12 IUPUI students. Among the places they'll work are Angie's List, GEICO, Sallie Mae, SmarterHQ and Vibenomics.

The program received major support by several institutional departments, including the deans of the schools of engineering and technology, science, informatics and computing, and business, as well as career services.

"Internships allow students to apply what they have learned in a classroom setting to real-world situations. They also teach students important workplace skills that complement their base of knowledge," said Jay Gladden, associate vice chancellor for undergraduate education.

Funding for both Xtern and the Xtern Semester comes from employers and a $5.7 million grant given to TechPoint by Lilly Endowment.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at dian@dischaffhauser.com or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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