With WEDC grant, UW to help Wisconsin companies develop international internships

To compete in today’s global marketplace, Wisconsin companies need people who have the skills to operate abroad. Studies, however, indicate that this need is not being fully met.

A $50,000 grant from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) will enable the University of Wisconsin–Madison to work with eight to 12 small and medium-sized Wisconsin companies on developing the global talent they need, while creating more opportunities for UW–Madison students to cross the bridge from academics into practice.

The International Internship Program (IIP), within the UW–Madison Division of International Studies, will lead this effort, which involves using grant funds to help companies defray the costs of creating internships with an international focus. Most of these internships will likely occur during the summer of 2015.

Other university partners in this initiative are the Office of Corporate Relations, Office of Industrial Partnerships, and career centers across campus.

“Companies need to place a strategic focus on developing and hiring talent that can operate in the global economy,” says IIP Director Maj Fischer. “Cultural understanding, language abilities, and comprehension of foreign markets and laws are only a few of the traits that companies need to empower employees with.”

IIP works with companies – ideally rooted in Wisconsin – to cultivate opportunities for UW–Madison undergraduates to gain practical training while still students, and as a relatively low-risk, low-cost means for companies to identify and train potential employees. Placements can include internships outside the United States or in domestic settings that require international skills.

Through internships, students can enhance their skills, knowledge, and attitudes to effectively live and work abroad or in other intercultural settings. IIP supports interns in the field through advising and coursework.

The IIP Partnerships for Global Talent initiative will target companies that have not previously hosted interns through IIP, but might have operations abroad, be supported by international investment, or are pursuing export opportunities. Those with the potential to recruit interns as full-time employees and able to sponsor internships over multiple years will be given a high priority.

“The goal is for companies to train and retain,” Fischer says.

IIP will work with participating companies to understand best practices for internship development, management and conversion to full employment, while helping businesses connect to other resources at UW–Madison.

For more information and to apply for an IIP Partnerships for Global Talent grant, see www.internships.international.wisc.edu/employers/wedc.

– by Kerry G. Hill