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Grant Aims to Connect Students With Internships

By Corey Murray

Program is part of a five-year plan to help employers identify and hire talent to fill high-demand positions.

When it comes to finding a job after graduation, few things can help students get a foot in the door faster than a well-placed internship.

That’s part of the thinking behind a new $1.2 million grant from JPMorgan Chase & Co. for California high school and community college students.

Awarded to the Foundation for California Community Colleges and the Linked Learning Alliance, a statewide nonprofit dedicated to providing students with real-world work experience, the focal point of the grant is the design and subsequent launch of a new software program to connect students with internships through local employers, with an emphasis on high-demand jobs, such as technology and health care.

An article in the Sacramento Business Journal says the grant is part of a broader five-year, $8 million campaign by JPMorgan Chase to help close the region’s growing skills gap.

“Work-based learning opportunities allow students to see the relevance of their classroom studies, inspire them to achieve success, and prepare them to fulfill their education and career goals,” Keetha Mills, president and chief executive officer of the California foundation said in a release about the grant. “We need to make it easier for employers to connect with schools and support student learning, and we will use this grant to build systems that support these relationships.”

How it works: Administrators plan to reach out to local employers and talk about how their organizations can participate. In addition to a new database to help employers connect with students, the grant provides support for hiring and working with interns, including human resources support, payroll processing, timesheet tracking and training for students on necessary skills, such as workplace etiquette — so that when students do get an opportunity to learn on the job, they can be as productive as possible.

The need: Proof of the nation’s growing skills gap is mounting and California may well be the poster child for reform. By 2018, economic projections indicate that 63 percent of all jobs in the state will require some form of postsecondary education. That’s a serious figure, especially when you consider that in 2012 only 78.5 percent of high school seniors earned their diploma. At the community college level, state data indicate that only about half of California students seeking to earn a degree or certificate or transfer to a four-year college actually do so. With an estimated 10,000 baby boomers retiring each day, state officials say employers are finding it harder than ever to identify and hire qualified talent for the area’s most in-demand careers.

“Facilitating partnerships with regional employers and expanding work-based learning opportunities for students will enrich education and benefit communities throughout the state,” said California Community Colleges Chancellor Brice Harris about the program.

Additional support:
 The grant is the latest in a series of initiatives to create better pathways for students from school to college to work. In 2013, legislators provided $250 million to create a statewide Career Pathways Trust. Also connected through the Linked Learning Alliance that program provides funding for “work-based learning specialists” to help connect students with training and employment opportunities in the region’s hottest career fields.

JPMorgan Chase also works with the Linked Learning Alliance to promote the Linked Learning Fall Showcase, a series of “regional gatherings” for educators, policymakers and representatives from the business community to discuss new workforce opportunities.

Push for hands-on job training

The news out of California comes as the White House and other stakeholders continue to stress the need for better partnerships between education and industry. On April 7, Joe Biden met with community college leaders at the American Association of Community College’s annual convention in Washington, D.C., to announce the creation of a new apprenticeship program that would bring businesses and community colleges together, giving students more opportunities to “earn while they learn.”

Just a few weeks later, President Obama joined Biden at the Community College of Allegheny County in Pennsylvania to announce that the administration was refocusing $450 million in U.S. Department of Labor grants to help dislocated workers and build strong alliances between colleges, industry and other stakeholders.

Is your college working to create better partnerships with industry? Tell us about it.

Corey Murray

is editor of the 21st-Century Center.

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