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"Backpacks to Briefcases" Helps Recent College Grads Secure Internships/Jobs

"Backpacks to Briefcases" Helps Recent College Grads Secure Internships/Jobs

NC State UniversityThroughout the recently-concluded political campaign, numerous commentators, pundits and candidates cited the formidable challenges that this labor market poses for all job-seekers, even those individuals with college degrees. One recently-devised innovative strategy to help recent graduates secure gainful employment has been developed by the Capital Area Workforce Development Board and EDSI in conjunction with NC State University's Career Development Center and Economic Development Partnership.

"Backpacks to Briefcases" is a 12-week, 32 hour/week, $12/hr. paid internship whereby college graduates who have been out of school at least six months and who are unemployed or under-employed can apply for enrollment/participation. Eligibility criteria include residency in Wake County or Johnston County, the service delivery area for the Capital Area Workforce Board, which is using a portion (approximately $500,000) of Workforce Investment Act (WIA) federal funding to underwrite the cost of these paid internships, with the desire that they will convert to full-time positions with the respective host employers. So far 77 eligible college graduates from 24 different universities have been enrolled, with impressive degrees of retention, completion and placement. While NC State has the highest number of participants (32) East Carolina has four enrollees, UNC-Chapel Hill three, and NC Central, NC A&T, UNC-Greensboro and UNC-Charlotte two each.

Employers have been enthusiastic in their positive response and participation to date. Businesses such as Allied Barton, Bioptigen, Coldwell Banker, Clear Connex, Covidien, Freudenberg IT and Nonwovens, Pentair, and Research Triangle International have hosted interns. Nonprofits and governmental agencies such as the American Cancer Society,  Big Brothers Big Sisters, the NC Museum of Natural Sciences, MS Society have provided opportunities for this initiative which is not even one year in existence, having been launched in January.

One other important element worth considerable emphasis is the collaborative relationship among Capital Area WDB, its vendor-contractor EDSI and the NC State Partnership that combines the workforce development/higher education expertise to help recent grads navigate the complex Research Triangle Region labor market. A concerted effort is put forth to try to match the participants internship to a relevant discipline to their course of study and related career goals. Also noteworthy is the preliminary job search technical assistance including labor market analysis, interview skill development, resume preparation and related job search assistance that is offered.

Given the loan indebtedness that is confronting and confounding many of our recent grads, and the concomitant likelihood that the job market competition will remain vigorous for the foreseeable future, Backpacks to Briefcases is a very useful and highly practical strategy to help both our recent graduates and our regional employers connect to mutual benefit in the world of work.

Author: Tom White, Director, Economic Development Partnership, North Carolina State University

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