By Elizabeth Liverman
State Council of Higher Education for Virginia
Students at five Virginia colleges and universities will enjoy expanded internships and other work-based learning opportunities in collaboration with Virginia employers, as winners of Round 2 of the State Council of Higher Education’s Innovative Internship Fund and Program grant competition.
“Virginia is losing a growing number of our college-educated residents to other states,” said SCHEV Director Peter Blake. “These kinds of internships at our in-state businesses not only provide marketable workforce skills for students, but also can serve as a way to keep more employees in Virginia.”
Administered by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV), Round 2 proposals focused on increasing the tech talent pipeline along two tracks: internship and development.
“The additional flexibility and dedicated focus on the development of institutional capacity to support students and employers will ensure successful outcomes for new initiatives and help grow Virginia’s tech talent pipeline,” said Donna Price Henry, chancellor of the University of Virginia’s College at Wise.
“This state investment supports regional workforce needs by enhancing the job-readiness of students. For VCU’s College of Engineering, this opportunity provided leverage to grow relationships with local technology employers that will continue to bear fruit long after the grant period has ended,” added Barbara Boyan, the Alice T. and William H. Goodwin, Jr. dean of the Virginia Commonwealth University College of Engineering.
In addition to grants, the Innovative Internship Program – which resulted from 2019 General Assembly legislation – supports a statewide initiative to convene stakeholders in business and industry to explore strategies from Virginia and elsewhere for successful state investment in internships and other work-based learning opportunities. Work is ongoing and preliminary findings and recommendations will be available later this fall.
SCHEV received 15 applications requesting slightly more than $1 million. A panel of workforce experts selected the final winners:
Virginia Commonwealth University ($200,000 with a match of $111,542 from employer partners): The VCU College of Engineering will launch a new program, “Tech Talent Internship Pipeline” in partnership with seven local technology companies, to place 24 to 28 computer science and computer engineering students into new summer internship positions. Interns will be prepared for the experience through a tailored one-credit professional development course and will receive guidance and support throughout their internship via a synchronous online course. Employer partners will receive training to develop their internship programs through a national curriculum.
Richard Bland College ($20,000): RBC will design a new internship program to align with new tech sector certificate and degree programs to be launched in response to industry partner requests for curricula that would aid in educating students to fill specialized positions. RBC will plan and design readiness workshops to prepare students for the internships; recruit local industry partners committed to hosting paid internships; and create the pipeline of talent for both the new degree programs and the new internship program through community and high school outreach.
Thomas Nelson Community College ($32,685.25): TNCC will develop a new credit-bearing, paid internship program for students pursing the Information Systems Technology Applied Associate Degree, with an emphasis on cybersecurity interns. The internships will be ready to launch in fall 2020. TNCC is one of a handful of community colleges in Virginia that has earned the Department of Homeland Security designation as a two-year Center for Academic Excellence (CAE2Y). TNCC’s annual Cybersecurity/IT Conference draws several hundred employers.
University of Virginia in collaboration with UVA-Wise ($35,703): The UVA School of Engineering and Applied Science will (1) engage experienced students in computing degree programs, supervised by faculty, to create learning materials for students who are early in their careers that will focus on practical skills and tools that are important when doing software development in an industry setting, and (2) explore expansion of a successful “virtual” internship experience at UVA-Wise, whereby a small group of students work on campus for a cybersecurity company that is not located nearby. The deliverables resulting from both activities will be packaged in a form that is complete, self-contained, and accessible by others then offered to other Virginia universities for implementation.
University of Virginia-Wise ($40,000): UVA-Wise’s Office of Career Discovery and Planning will create a centralized internship management program for better tracking and consistent administration of internships for students. It will build the college’s capacity to track all internships, including those in the technology sector, as well as subsequent job offers and acceptances of employment, and will expedite the institution’s readiness to facilitate internships. The team also will convene internship coordinators from all departments, provide professional development in collaboration with national organizations, such as the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NCAE), and share other information ranging from emerging trends, to legal issues, to additional resources and opportunities for students.