Charles Kelley, executive director of the Rhode Island Student Loan Authority (RISLA), offered some convincing evidence yesterday that internship programs help young people get jobs.
At a breakfast for college and university career centers at the Radisson, Kelley said a study showed that 63 percent of job applicants who complete an internship get job offers and drops to 40 percent for those who haven’t done an internship.
It’s data like this that has Governor Lincoln Chafee enthused about the new collaboration between the Governor’s Workforce Board and the Loan Authority.
For the first time, the governor has budgeted $3 million for workforce development. Traditionally, the money for that has come from federal grants and the business community. Should the funding gain legislative approval, $1 million would flow into a new work immersion program this year, and the remaining $2 million would be earmarked for next year.
Chafee spoke at the breakfast, noting it was the first day of spring and, like the weather, the state’s economy “is getting there.”
He endorsed internships, saying people who did them “always jumped out” when it came to interviews.
Under the program, those students completing a qualified internship, for which they earned at least three college credits, would be entitled to $2,000 of forgiveness on any RISLA loan. This part of the program would be entirely funded by the loan authority and does not hinge on passage of the governor’s proposed budget.
Kelley said the loan authority has firsthand experience of the value of internships. He said eight of the agency’s employees started as interns “and never left.” He said internships provide employers an opportunity to get the pick of the crop before they graduate and, hopefully, provide them an opportunity and reason to stay in Rhode Island.
Should the governor’s proposal gain approval, Rick Brooks, executive director of the Workforce Board, said under the immersion program, employers would be reimbursed 50 percent of what they paid interns and 75 percent if they hire the participant. Participants must be at least 18 years old and a Rhode Island resident enrolled in a Rhode Island college or university.
With 55,000 unemployed in the state, Brooks said the board is looking for ways “to bridge the gap” between those seeking jobs and those looking to fill positions.
He observed there are different gaps from skills, job readiness and education, and that to deal with the issue, the board is seeking to “engage employers as full partners.”
As a part of the effort to encourage students to pursue internships and make it easy for employers, there is a website, www.bridge.jobs. The site, explained Kelley, enables employers to post internships, giving students a place to research positions and follow up. The service, developed by RISLA and the board, is free.
The loan forgiveness program for interns will commence May 1 for 2013 summer internships. Any matriculating students at a state institution of higher learning as well as Rhode Island residents attending out-of-state institutions are eligible.
Kelley said the $2,000 forgiveness applies to any RISLA held non-federal loan.