St. Joseph County -

According to the St. Joseph County Chamber of Commerce, local students go to college and graduate school at rates comparable to the rest of the state, but our area has a difficult time retaining them. And when they can't find a job here -- they go somewhere else. That can have a negative impact on economic development in our area. That is why the Chamber is starting a new program to develop and retain talented young people in our area.

They are calling it internSJC. According to the Chamber, it is "a talent engagement program designed to increase the quantity and quality of experiential learning in St. Joseph County and reduce the out-migration of students by offering employment opportunities through internships."  Its been up and running for about 2 weeks.

Lindsey Talboom is from the South Bend area and right after graduation from college last year, she got a job at Visit South Bend Mishawaka. But she probably wouldn't have easily gotten the job had it not been for her internship there.

"Almost all my friends from school started in an internship and if it wasn't at the company that they were offered an internship, it was the connections they made at that company that led somewhere else," says Talboom.

And that is why the St. Joseph County Chamber of Commerce is implementing internSJC: to keep and attract more young people like Talboom here after college. Because, Chamber of Commerce President and CEO, Jeff Rea says, more talent in this area ultimately means more jobs for everyone.

"The jobs of today are following talent. Every company is looking in our area is wondering if there is a pipeline of talent ready to fell those position," says Rea, "so communities that have been most successful in economic development have figured out ways to help load that pipeline of talent."

Rea says the idea is to keep graduates from our local colleges here and to attract back local students who went away to college.

Kate Lee is the Director of Talent Engagement for the St. Joseph County Chamber. It will be her job to help businesses, students and graduates find the ways and means to connect to increase local internship opportunities. Lee will serve as a liaison to universities  and students to find opportunties, resources and build relationships. For example, Lee believes businesses aren't taking advantage of financial aid money currently available to help businesses pay interns hourly.

Rea says St. Joseph County isn't the first to implement a program like this. He says Ft. Wayne has a graduate retention program and has placed some 5000 students since the program kicked off.

Employers interested in establishing internships should contact the Chamber of Commerce.