Free service aims to match employers, students for STEM internships in Va.

October 7, 2012

Virginia has funded a free service that connects employers with college students seeking summer internships in science, technology, engineering or math.

The program, created by the Virginia Space Grant Consortium, is an effort to streamline and centralize the internship application process. By doing so, the initiative aims to make it easier for students to build expertise in an in-demand field while giving employers a gateway to groom the highly skilled workers they say they badly need.

The initiative, known as the Commonwealth STEM Industry Internship Program, will create an online hub where Virginia employers can post the internships that they are offering in these fields.

Students can either fill out a broad application that puts them in consideration for any of the positions, or they can apply directly to specific jobs. They can also indicate a preference for working in a particular region of Virginia.

From there, employers can sift through the applicants using a range of search filters: They can sort them by grade point average, major, university or by keyword.

Del. Joe T. May (R-Loudoun) has been a champion of the program and plans to use it to find interns for EIT, the Sterling-based electronics design company at which he is chief technology officer.

May said the new program will formalize and speed up the recruitment process at his firm and will help other workplaces around the region find the talent they need.

Because of that, May describes it as “one of those things that you can’t afford not to do.”

The grant provides $600,000 to be used over two years. Mary Sandy, director of the Virginia Space Grant Consortium, said that money covers the cost of building the database, marketing it to colleges, students and employers, and paying a staff to maintain it.

The effort is supported by all of the state’s regional technology trade associations, and its availability was first announced at a recent event held by the Northern Virginia Technology Council. These groups have pledged to market the service to its members.

Bobbie Kilberg, NVTC’s president and chief executive, said that 15 companies signed up right away at the launch event.

“Having an internship program that can build and move to full-time jobs once a student graduates is very important for workforce development,” Kilberg said.

Sarah Halzack is The Washington Post's national retail reporter. She has previously covered the local job market and the business of talent and hiring. She has also served as a Web producer for business and economics news.
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