A poultry farm isn’t quite the image you get when you think high-tech jobs. But for two Interns for Indiana students, developing a protocol to evaluate a farm's duck vaccination program was a substantial and high-tech project.
The Interns for Indiana educational program was created to provide Purdue students with challenging, career-building experiences (aka workforce readiness) in a fast-paced, entrepreneurial environment as a support to high-tech start-up companies in the state of Indiana. “The program offers a way for Purdue to be involved in the promotion of economic development while helping to keep the best and brightest in Indiana,” says Monica Shively, Interns for Indiana coordinator.
Students who are selected to participate – juniors and seniors from all majors at four Purdue campuses – are placed as interns in a variety of fields, including research and development, business development, marketing, and software development. “Because students are matched to fill company needs, internships may be cross-disciplinary, ” explains Emily Hart, Interns for Indiana regional director of development. “For instance, a marketing student may be placed in a software development company or an electrical engineering student placed with a medical device company. The internship matches what the student brings to the table with what the company’s needs are. It is always a truly substantive experience; the students are not running errands or fetching coffee.”
Peer group learning is one of the educational components of this program. Interns meet weekly as a group, and with the aid of discussion topics, learn from each other’s experiences. “By having them reflect on what they are doing – saying it, talking about it, writing it – they are thinking through the process,” says Shively. “This process deepens their learning and helps prepare them for the poster session where they present their project to other students, faculty, entrepreneurs, and other supporters and donors.”
Since the program started nearly a decade ago, Interns for Indiana has enabled more than 500 Purdue students to intern with over 185 Indiana start-up companies. Interns gain a keen understanding of entrepreneurship and awareness of job opportunities in the state. “Equally important is the growth students experience – personally and professionally,” shares Shively. “They are working in small companies where they have broad responsibilities and contact with all levels within the company. The company partners also grow along the way because they benefit from the students’ expertise.”
Through the personal attention students receive from this high-touch program, they do not have to figure it all out on their own; there are people guiding them along the way. “We push them to get the most from this experience,” states Shively. “They are not only developing and acquiring new skills but also learning from each other, gaining confidence and getting to know themselves better. Not all intern programs do this, so we are immensely proud of the program and the students. We are deeply thankful to our donors who have so graciously supported this program.”