TechPoint, IUPUI ‘breaking the mold’ with new extended internship program

TechPoint and IUPUI this week announced a new partnership designed to stem Indy’s brain drain while giving local tech companies enhanced access to some of the area’s best young talent.

TechPoint officials said the new Xtern Semester program will begin to change local tech companies’ hiring processes and the way local universities prepare students to enter the workforce.

“We’re breaking the mold of the traditional summer internship,” said TechPoint CEO Mike Langellier. “This is a unique threaded work-and-learn experience designed to be more flexible. We want this to be a framework that will not only work for various universities but also for different students coming from different backgrounds.”

TechPoint officials say the Xtern Semester program could be expanded to other schools throughout the region. And if it works as anticipated, IUPUI officials said they would look to expand it to other industries.

Xtern Semester is an extended internship program through which IUPUI seniors join TechPoint’s 10-week Xtern summer program and then continue their paid internship throughout their senior year. 

Initial conversations leading to the IUPUI and TechPoint partnership were facilitated by the state’s new Governor’s Workforce Cabinet. That entity has been focused on ensuring alignment of Indiana’s workforce at all levels—from kindergarten to career—and has encouraged innovative partnerships between higher education institutions and industry. 

The participating students will earn at least three college credits for their extended internship and be paid between $12 and $24 an hour.

When the 2019-20 school year begins, 10 IUPUI students who participated in the Xtern summer program will continue as part of the inaugural Xtern Semester class and work for their companies throughout the academic year.

Langellier said the launch of the Xtern Semester program is “a call to action” for universities to help grow the program and change the way they are students prepared for work—and for companies locally and regionally to change the way they hire, train and retain young talent.

“We see significant growth in this program within five years,” Langellier said. “I would love to have hundreds of upper class college students participating in this.”

The companies participating in the inaugural year of the program are Angie's List, Appirio, OneCause, Viral Launch, GEICO, Renaissance Electronic Services and Sallie Mae.

The fact that the students simultaneously get paid and earn college credit is a critical part of the Xtern Semester program, Langellier said. 

“This allows students to work 20 or more hours a week and stay on track to graduate,” he said.

TechPoint’s Xtern summer program began in 2014 and has grown quickly. This year 150 students were chosen from 1,816 applicants to take part in the 10-week summer program. TechPoint helps match the selected students with the right companies to maximize the benefits for all involved.

Xtern Semester students can be those seeking tech-skilled, business or liberal arts degrees that are interested in gaining experience working for a tech company.

Langellier pointed out that at least half of employees working for tech companies “are not coders or techies.”

“A large swath of their employees within tech companies are in sales, marketing, finance, support and design,” he said. “This needs to be an on ramp for students with lots of different backgrounds.”

IUPUI officials said their school in downtown Indianapolis is a perfect place to lay down that first on ramp.

“I think IUPUI is an ideal place to start this program,” said Jay Gladden, dean of IUPUI’s University College. “We have a lot of students involved in the technology space and we also have a relatively large number of students who work as they go to school. We also have a good location with respect to proximity to a number of businesses.”

IUPUI this year has nearly 4,000 undergraduate student in technology majors across programs in engineering and technology, informatics and computer science. 

“This is a win-win for IUPUI and our students,” Gladden added. “We want work experience for our students that is more tailored toward their academic field of study.”

IUPUI “aggressively” pursued being part of the program, Langellier said.

About 200 IUPUI students applied for TechPoint’s Xtern summer program, and Gladden said, “Once more students start learning about this experience, the more demand here will grow.”

Gladden said other schools will take notice of the Xtern Semester program.

“I think this would be an interesting model to expand regionally,” he said. “And I think there’s potential to expand it to other industries.”

Expanding the program to other schools would be fine with TechPoint.

Langellier said colleges need to address the changing employment needs of today’s businesses.

“Universities supply talent like an attraction at a water park,” he said. “It fills with water and fills with water until it finally dumps. That method misses a huge part of the marketplace.”

“Today’s business need is much more in-time or real-time—especially for small- and mid-sized businesses,” Gladden added. “We’ve got to blur the hard deadline that students aren’t ready for businesses until June or January. It’s way past time to address that. This program is one way of doing that.”

In addition to giving college students more meaningful work experiences, Langellier said the Xtern Semester program addresses one of the primary business concerns with traditional internships.

“Businesses invest 10 weeks in training and on-boarding interns, and then they’re gone right as they’re getting up to speed,” Langellier said. “After that, they may lose contact with the intern.”

The Xtern Semester program, Langellier said, helps companies retain local talent they’ve identified and helped develop.

“We expect this to get bigger and be an inspiration for other work-learn programs,” he said. “There are tremendous possibilities with this program.”

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