Monday, July 27, 2009

Internship program aims to keep logistics grads in Central Ohio - Business First of Columbus:

Internship program aims to keep logistics grads in Central Ohio - Business First of Columbus:

(Ben's note - kudos to the ColumbusChamber for keeping talent in Columbus ----> IT community what are you doing to keep talent in town? Drop me a note if you're in the IT or Bioscience sector and you've got good internship program)

The ColumbusChamber doesn’t haul or warehouse freight, but it has recently played a role in the area’s logistics sector.

In partnership with the region’s logistics trade association, the chamber has begun an internship program to improve the odds students will consider taking a Central Ohio job when they graduate. The goal is for students to get a view of what the region can offer as a logistics career center and as a place to live, said Andrea Applegate, the chamber’s director of workplace development.

“We want to help retain as many graduates in the Columbus region as possible,” she said. “We believe when students understand the employment opportunities available, then they’re more likely to stay.”

The issue is an important one for Ohio. A June study by the Washington, D.C.-based Thomas B. Fordham Institute found 58 percent of Ohio’s college students plan to leave the state when they finish college.

The internship program includes tours of logistics companies, work skills workshops, tours of area housing and visits to cultural destinations in the area. Interns also recently toured a downtown condominium project.

The initiative seems to be working for at least one intern.

“I’ve started to realize how great Ohio is,” said Becca Ruda, a 21-year-old student at Ohio State University.

The Avon Lake native interning at Zipline Logistics in German Village said the program has introduced her to downtown and gave her a view of the diversity of logistics companies in Central Ohio.

Evolving program

The seeds for the program were planted in 2008, when the chamber launched its Web site to connect employers with interns. The chamber used a state grant to hire a consultant to tailor internships.

Then the chamber began talking with the Greater Columbus Region Logistics Council about internships in the sector.

The result was a collaboration of about a dozen area logistics companies that offer site tours for interns and have worked together on internship programs, said Dan Ricciardi, the council’s executive director.

“This is a little more of a structured program,” he said. “The internships are able to be a meaningful experience.”

Interns work for companies in paid positions, then participate in a regular series of events facilitated by the chamber. The chamber’s consultant, Dave Cofer of Columbus-based Cofer Consulting Solutions LLC, also leads work-skills training seminars.

The Web site has filled 133 internships since its launch, including about 20 in the logistics program this summer.

“They have made it as simple as possible for employers to first of all build a program, and then to connect to potential interns,” said Michael Linton, vice president of strategic development at ODW Logistics Inc. in Columbus.

In the past, Linton relied on networking in what he described as a hit-or-miss effort. The Web site allows ODW to post internships in a public forum that attracts applicants, said Linton, formerly the CEO of Adecco USA, a staffing agency.

Value added

Zipline Logistics’ partners didn’t know how they’d snag an intern – until they hooked into the chamber site, said partner J.J. Rodeheffer. The three-employee shipment management company posted on the site seeking an intern and received 110 applications.

“We were elated; we didn’t have to do anything,” Rodeheffer said.

While the platform has been a boon for employers, the elements of the logistics program make the internships more fulfilling, Ruda said. A visit to Rickenbacker Global Logistics Park opened her eyes.

“I didn’t even know that existed,” she said.

The program also helps interns sharpen workplace skills, said Mary Vaughn, chairwoman of integrated media and technology at Columbus State Community College. Vaughn also sits on the council’s work-force development committee. Interns in the logistics program, however, get training in basic work skills such as leadership, teamwork and customer service.

“That’s very important,” Vaughn said. “Every industry comes back to us and says we want those kind of fundamental skills.”


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