Six area colleges continue coordinated internship program

 Originally published in The Commons issue #286 (Wednesday, December 24, 2014). This story appeared on page A7.

By Sarah Buckingham/The Commons

BRATTLEBORO—The Vermont Department of Labor has renewed its support of the Windham Higher Education Cooperative’s (WHEC) internship program for a second year.

WHEC was formed by six area schools — Community College of Vermont, Marlboro College, Union Institute & University, World Learning/SIT, Vermont Technical College, and Landmark College — in partnership with the Brattlebroro Development Credit Corp. and Southeastern Vermont Economic Development Strategies (SeVEDS).

The cooperative’s purpose is to enhance educational opportunities and engage in economic development in the region. WHEC’s flagship programs include a cross-registration program which allows students to take courses at other member institutions, and an internship program that places students with local businesses.

Jan Coplan is WHEC’s Internship Coordinator. “We are both thrilled and grateful to the Vermont Department of Labor for their support and belief in the vision of our program,” she says. “This is an amazing model that has unbelievable potential.”

The grant covers Coplan’s salary and operating costs for the program.

More than 20 local employers have signed on as internship hosts and, so far, 11 students have been placed in area businesses such as Farnum Cellulose, Fulflex Elastrometics, Allen Brothers Farms, and The Gathering Place.

“The thrilling thing is the unbelievable response and support we’ve gotten from Windham region business,” Coplan says, “They’re making it happen. They’re doing what they can to make it attractive to students.”

Students receive college credit and get paid for their work. “We are really discouraging unpaid internships. We tell the business they need to at least pay minimum wage.”

Internship opportunities have been created for students from all WHEC member institutions, and for students from Hobart, William & Smith, Antioch University, the University of Vermont, and Emory College.

“Any college student in the country can apply to the positions. The only criteria is they work in a Windham region business,” Coplan says, “Someone applied from Indiana State University, so we’re starting to see students outside the state of Vermont apply.”

Erica Josephson is in her junior year at UVM. She’s majoring in business with a minor in computer science. This fall, she’s been working as a web support intern at West Halifax-based software company Storm Petrel.

“I work on making applications and data bases for them,” she says, “Its been pretty nice. My supervisor has been very supportive and helping me learn the programs and building on my knowledge. I’m interested in going into IT. I don’t know exactly what position I would want but it helps me realize that I enjoy working with technology and maybe I can sort of hone in on a career that focuses on technology and business.”

WHEC hopes the internship program will encourage young people to live and work in Southeastern Vermont. “We would love to see students hired after internships and stay in the area,” Coplan says.