The University of Akron was selected as one of the top recipients of state funding to support workforce development strategies and enhance student success. UA will receive $932,571 to improve and expand its internship and co-op programs across the campus (contingent upon Controlling Board approval).
UA will apply the funding to a new campus-wide initiative that leverages the success of the College of Engineering’s co-op program to educate employers about the benefits of co-ops and internships. Additionally, the initiative will employ best practices to improve the quality of such programs, and create at least 250 new co-op and internship opportunities across five colleges and 34 programs linked to key industries targeted for growth in Ohio.
The Ohio Board of Regents announced in September that $11 million in state funds would be shared among colleges and universities through a competitive process that required universities to submit proposals to enhance experiential learning and career opportunities for students, in partnership with business and industry. Public and private Ohio institutions of higher education seeking to receive a portion of the $11 million submitted applications to the Board of Regents.The Regents said the grants are part of Governor John Kasich’s workforce development efforts to continue to align Ohio’s higher education curriculum with skills that are in demand by Ohio’s businesses.
VIDEO: Employers return to UA to talk about how their co-ops helped them toward successful careers.
The awards under the program must be matched by the colleges and universities: undergraduate programs are required to match 100 percent and graduate programs are required to match 150 percent of the awarded grant. The match can come from the institutions themselves or from any of their partners, including businesses in JobsOhio target industries – biohealth, energy, automotive, advanced manufacturing, polymers, aerospace/aviation, food processing, financial services (banking and insurance), information technology and consumer goods.
At UA, the award supports one-time seed money to provide up to $4,000 to match employer contributions to support a new co-op or internship position. The intent is to demonstrate the value of these positions to a company.
Letters of commitment from more than 60 companies in 18 counties supported the UA proposal, along with support from:
The co-op program at the College of Engineering is the perfect model, with depth of experience and demonstrated success. It is 98 years old (the fifth oldest in the country) and consistently achieves placement rates of more than 90 percent in co-ops and post-graduate jobs. Employers clearly value the internship/co-op experience as evidenced by the fact that 50 percent of students are hired full-time by their co- op employer. Additionally, the difference in starting salaries upon graduation for students who participate in co-ops and those who don’t average about $12,000. Using this successful model, UA will explore the addition of required co-op and internship degree options for 34 programs, including subject areas from applied math to psychology to nutrition to communications.
Also planned is additional staffing and targeted training in the UA Career Center to support the growth of these programs. Workshops and conference calls with potential employers are part of the plan, beginning in January 2013.
“The commitment we are making to significantly expand co-ops and internships delivers on our strategic goals to focus on student success, increase graduation rates and the numbers of students who are employed in their career choice shortly after graduation,” says UA President Luis M. Proenza. “This is what we mean by The Akron Experience, and the additional state funding will help us build upon it.” Proenza notes that at UA, students who perform a co-op or internship possess six-year graduation rates of 85 percent, well above the state average.
“More than 95 percent of the state funds for this program are being spent directly on students,” says Jim Tressel, vice president of strategic engagement. “And we are doing what we promise—connecting students effectively with industry and community partners—to benefit both the students and our region.”
According to Provost Mike Sherman, existing degree programs will be significantly modified: “Programs that do not have a co-op or internship degree program option, where these experiences are required, will be added as applicable. This will impact many degree programs on campus. Also, employers will provide direct feedback to help us better prepare students for workplace demands. This could result in the addition or removal of courses and content to better align that degree program with industry needs.”
The total budget for this program, called Replicating a Proven Model to Provide Experiential Opportunities for Student Success, exceeds $2 million, including the amount of $932, 571 provided by the state.
Media contact: Eileen Korey, 330-972-8589 or firstname.lastname@example.org