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Talent slipping through our fingers

Posted by Chad O'Connor  September 28, 2012 11:00 AM

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courtesy of Michael Flint
Tough student choices
Massachusetts doesn't have a talent attraction problem, we have a talent retention problem. Thousands of students from all over the world come to Massachusetts' highly competitive 100+ colleges and universities each year. And not just any students-the schools have done extensive marketing and outreach to attract the best students they can. Boston is a college town and supports those students while they're in school. But what's keeping them here after school? It has got to be a job. Let's be the first state to adopt a state-wide co-op program.

But don't the schools already do this?

Only a very few do. Northeastern University is a model for this. UMass and Wentworth have programs as well, but the majority of schools focus on education, not career placement. They're just not good at career services. Did your school place you in a job?

Co-ops vs. Interns
What I'm proposing is NOT a mass-internship program. Interns are typically part-time, not very invested, and not paid (or not paid well). Co-op students invest themselves in their work, the companies they work for, and build business relationships. Companies can still pay a co-op student well by student standards, and be far below the typical consultant or part-time employee rates. You can depend on co-ops being there every day for six months, and line the next ones up so there's virtually no gap in the workforce.

How Co-ops Benefit Local Companies
Companies still interview and decide who to hire, but the negotiations are much simpler than hiring a full-time employee. Benefits aren't required, salaries are low, and the co-ops don't need re-training, just molding. Co-op students are smart, eager, energetic, full of new ideas, and willing to do anything to learn; a much different profile than someone who has been in the workforce for a number of years. It’s kind of a "try-before-you-buy" program. Companies can then bring back a pre-qualified and pre-trained former-co-op, often times before the student has even searched for other job options.

How Co-ops Help Students
Remember when you were just out of college? You knew you could do anything if someone just gave you a chance. The problem is, most student resumes are blank. But a student with one or two 6-month job experiences with real (and often well-known companies) will have a hiring edge. They're learning to think critically and solve problems in real-world experience, and they're growing their professional connections.

How It Helps Massachusetts
It’s simple. By helping the students, we'll attract more students here. It will make Boston's higher education market more attractive world-wide. And it will give Massachusetts-based companies an edge — a lot of edges actually.

I firmly believe that we need to connect our best students to our best companies. Not only will the experience make them better, but the relationship building will help keep them here. Have you hired a co-op student or been one? I would love to hear about your experience.

Michael Flint is Owner and President of Metropolis Creative.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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