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Internship Co-Op Program

Many colleges and universities require students to have one or more internships to graduate. However, there are fewer internship opportunities than there are qualified/interested students. Today's senior entrepreneurs have fantastic experience to share. Yet, many lack the resources to hire one or more interns for an extended period of time. I would like to launch a program that allows qualified students to enroll in a co-op internship program. The program would match students with experienced entrepreneurs who are looking for help on a limited basis. Students would accumulate points based on the number of hours they contribute. Program graduates would qualify to interview with qualifying organizations for full-time employment.

Photo of Laura McGowan Fry
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How would you describe your idea in one sentence?

A national (eventually global) internship co-op program that offers qualifying students the opportunity to work within qualifying organizations (owned or run by seniors) on a project-by-project basis - making internship sponsorship more attainable for organizations while providing a greater number of our students with "real world" experience prior to graduation.
Student Qualifications.  To qualify for the program, students must receive at least two recommendations from college/university faculty and/or administrators.  Recommendations must outline what skills the student has to offer an employer, examples of successes and a statement as to why the faculty member believes the student will succeed.

Employer Qualifications.  Employers must complete a three part qualification process (interview with program administration, meet program requirements, and make a three year commit to the program with a limited number of hours offered to qualifying students).  Employers must be seniors with extensive experience looking to integrate the experience/skills of our youth into their already successful organizations.  "Seniors" must be either the business owner and/or the students' direct supervior.

University Internship Credit.  Each qualifying project will be assigned a point total based on the level of expertise needed to complete the project and the number of hours it will take to complete.  Participating students will need to accumulate a targeted number of points to successfully pass the program.  Upon program completion, the students will have fulfilled their college/university's internship requirements. Program administrators will meet with administrators at participating college and universities to insure the program meets the college and university guideliness.

Student Fees.  Students will be given the option to either pay a one-time discounted placement fee at the time they are accepted into the program or else agree to either
  1. Pay the fee within three years upon their departure from the program  (regardless of whether they complete it successfully)
  2. Sponsor a qualifying student into their organization of choice within three years post-graduation
  3. Recruit an organization sponsor within three years of post-graduation

Sponsors.  The program will rely on funding from private (e.g., individual donations, foundation donations, corporate gifts) and government support. Organizations that donate to the effort will also be given the opportunity to hire students upon their graduation from the program and sponsoring college/university. 

What early, lightweight experiment can you try out in your own community to test any assumptions you might have about your idea?

I am a small business owner (marketing consultancy) and teach at three universities in the Detroit area. I see first hand the struggles students face trying to find an internship with very limited professional networks. As a professional well established in the community, I know first hand that businesses value hard workers but are afraid to commit to hiring full-time or even for a semester long commitment. They do; however, find themselves faced short handed and no place to turn for short-term assistance (e.g., writing a press release, writing website copy, managing a customer service phone line during vacation season, etc.). Such a program targeted toward matching seniors with qualified youth will help provide our youth with valuable practical experience and help to rejuvenate established organizations. Personal Qualifications & Pretesting: I am able to speak with students, faculty, administrators and local business owners about their interest level and willingness to participate in such a program.

What aspects of your idea could benefit from the input, skills or know-how of our OpenIDEO community?

Input from entrepreneurs and small business owners as to their likelihood to utilize such a service. Input from global 50/100/500 organizations as to their willingness to sponsor such a program in their local community.

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Photo of Guy Viner
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I'm really digging this idea, Laura. I think that your provocation to ask other users for the insights about utilizing the service or sponsoring it is an intelligent next step. Adding an entrepreneur, small business owner, or funder to your team could also be a great way to take in some fresh insights and bring your idea to life. I'll be sure to follow your progress as you carry this forward!

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