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"You can't win the lottery if you don't play." Business advocate and internship enthusiast Jennifer Fisher wasn't encouraging the crowd to gamble when she emphasized these words in her keynote address at the 9th Annual IMPACT Awards luncheon, but to instead "get in the game" to build a career.

At Indiana INTERNnet, we believe one of the best ways to jumpstart careers is through internships. We recognized several winning initiatives at our annual “jackpot” event in February.

This year’s College Intern of the Year, Charisa Scott, went above and beyond at her internship with Covance Central Laboratory Services. One example involved creating and delivering a SharePoint site. She managed the project from start to finish and successfully launched it for the global client coordinator team. Following her internship, she accepted a full-time position with the company.

Transitioning interns into full-time hires pays off for both students and employers.

We look forward to the IMPACT Awards luncheon every year because it’s our opportunity to celebrate the significance of internships and spotlight accomplishments like Scott’s. The focus is on interns and how they are striving to become the best and brightest in Indiana’s workforce. We entertained a capacity crowd at the event, and the 60-plus stories of success we recognized are a testament to the importance of internships for students, employers, industries and the state.

Lieutenant Gov. Sue Ellspermann closed the event by challenging employers to do even more to invest in young talent in Indiana through internships. The Indiana Career Council’s strategic plan, created by the state, calls for 60% of Indiana’s workers to have in-demand postsecondary skills and credentials by 2025. Aligning and engaging industry, education and the emerging workforce in work-and-learn models is a key strategy for Indiana’s economic development.

This year’s Employer of the Year honorees offer innovative models for internship programs and are contributing to this effort.

At Baldwin & Lyons, Inc. (B+L), our For-Profit Employer of the Year, the focus is on meaningful projects and dedicated mentoring to maximize interns’ learning experiences.

“2014 (was) a year of excellence for our internship program,” declares chief of staff Valerie Wilson. It’s easy to see why.

A few highlights:

  • 96% of interns reported their job responsibilities were challenging, but attainable.

  • 63% of interns with at least junior standing were converted to either full-time or part-time employment or another internship.

  • 100% of interns expressed an interest in working for B+L upon graduation.

Wilson says B+L’s educational resources are focused on enhancing general business knowledge and skills in a fun and engaging way. The company hosts lunch and learn sessions on a variety of topics. In addition, all interns are provided access to video tutorial library so they can learn business software and skills. They are also encouraged to shadow different departments and specify areas or positions that most interest them. B+L supervisors also boost their skills by completing, prior to internship season, thorough training on how to be a mentor.

Networking also plays an important role at B+L. Internships kicked off with a lunch discussion, featuring a panel of B+L employees who began as interns. In addition, interns had the chance to volunteer at the Special Olympics Summer Games, eat lunch with B+L’s CEO, attend an Indianapolis Indians’ game and enjoy a party at Latitude 360, which mixes dining and entertainment.

The employer-intern connection doesn’t end when the internship concludes. Last fall, employees assembled care packages with encouraging notes to send their former interns during final exams. Staff also makes an effort to visit when they are on college campuses for career fairs.

"Our summer 2014 cohort is more than a group of former interns," Wilson imparts. "They are B+L alumni and continue to contribute to the program's successes."

We couldn't be more pleased with the growing awareness and innovation in experiential learning, and we are proud to play a role in that.

Recognize individuals or organizations committed to internship excellence by completing the Awards Nomination Form on the Indiana INTERNnet web site.