INTERNnet Partnership with enFocus in Northern Indiana to Battle Brain Drain


enfcouseThis column originally appeared in the Inside INdiana Business BigWigs & New Gigs newsletter.

Indiana INTERNnet (IIN) is forging partnerships with regional groups that share equal tenacity for increasing talent retention in the state. Our newest partner, enFocus, is already making a difference in South Bend.

enFocus is a “talent incubator and social innovation engine” whose approach is to cultivate what’s in its own backyard.

Its fellowship program encourages recent graduates from the area to stay and help develop St. Joseph County by giving them the resources to solve real community problems. In addition, a partnership with the St. Joseph County Chamber of Commerce is creating more internships in the area than ever before.

IIN has teamed up with enFocus to pilot a strategic feedback mechanism for experiential learning program development, expansion and improvement in St. Joseph County, with the goal of expanding it statewide. The comprehensive survey will measure internship success and the impact on talent retention.

Kathleen Ryan, a first-year fellow at enFocus and project lead on the survey pilot, credits an internship as the key to discovering what she truly wanted out of her career.

“It is because of an internship with a community health outreach organization during my senior year of college that I pursued an enFocus internship,” she explains . “At that time, I fully intended to continue on to medical school post-graduation. Through this experiential learning experience, however, I found that I was more drawn to community development.”

This type of career exploration is the cornerstone of enFocus’ mission in St. Joseph County and IIN’s mission statewide. enFocus works to curb the area’s brain drain with a two-pronged system: consulting with local organizations and offering time and resources to its fellows, who work to find solutions for regional industries. Following the program, enFocus works to place fellows in jobs in the area.

Since its inception in 2012, enFocus and its fellows facilitated regional projects like SB150, South Bend’s 150th birthday celebration, and the Regional Cities Initiative.

enFocus also partners with the St. Joseph County Chamber and its internship program, InternSJC.

“Through InternSJC we offer consultative services to local companies, working with them to make internships more valuable, efficient and exciting for company staff and students seeking employment in the area post-graduation,” Ryan describes. “Also through InternSJC, we help facilitate a summer community engagement program for interns in the area, seeking to improve the student experience and perception of our region’s opportunities through social programming, networking events and community service opportunities.”

All of the organization’s facets come together for a common goal: to make St. Joseph County a better place to work and live.

“We expose students and graduates to real-life issues felt by our regional partners and challenge them to alleviate those pain points,” Ryan emphasizes. “This enables them to develop professionally and gain experience while providing invaluable service to the community.

“We realize that Michiana is not the only region in Indiana that could rally around talent and youthful leadership to grow. We want to expand our model across the state to make Indiana an even more preferable place to start a career, business or family.”

IIN and local economic and community development groups are making strides in other regions as well.

For nearly 10 years, IIN has worked with the Northeast Indiana Graduate Retention Program (GRP, now a part of Greater Fort Wayne Inc.). The Greater Fort Wayne Inc. Fellows Program is a 12-month experience that connects high potential college students with Greater Fort Wayne Inc. investors who have a regular need for new talent. The program utilizes dedicated summer internship experiences as admission into the fellowship.

In Northwest Indiana, colleges and universities are joining forces to promote their students under the umbrella of Ready Northwest Indiana, an economic development and education initiative. Ancilla College, Calumet College, Valparaiso University, St. Joseph’s College and the Center of Workforce Innovations, Inc. are teaming with IIN to meet the needs of employers through a common platform to access students prepared for internships.

We look forward to the difference these efforts will make in St. Joseph County and statewide.

To register for our free service, visit www.IndianaINTERN.net, or call (317) 264-6862 to speak with our staff about your internship program.

Janet Boston is executive director of Indiana INTERNnet — an affiliate program of the Indiana Chamber.

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