BGSU partners to promote student co-ops and internships through state program

Brent Lenahan, a BGSU junior from Rossford majoring in aviation management, at his OMIC-supported co-op/internship at Toledo Express Airport, where he has worked since January. Working with the director of airport operations, Lenahan is getting hands-on experience in airport operation and administration and in TSA and FAA regulatory compliance.

Bowling Green State University is taking the Ohio Means Internships and Co-ops (OMIC) grant program to a new level. The University is leading a collaboration among northwest Ohio public colleges and universities to develop a robust workforce through experiences that prepare students for the world of work. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, more than 50 percent of interns transition into full-time employment with their companies.

BGSU is the lead institution in the Northwest Ohio Regional Team, which includes Owens Community College, Rhodes State College, Terra State Community College and the University of Toledo.

Entering its third year, OMIC is sponsored by the Ohio Board of Regents and supported by a variety of private businesses. The grant program directly helps businesses support students in co-ops and internships while also educating more businesses about how to set up and maximize those experiences. In OMIC 2.5, the Northwest Ohio Regional Team will receive over $333,000 of a total $2 million in six regional projects.

OMIC has been successful in its first two years, said Jeffery Jackson, assistant vice president for enrollment management and director of the BGSU Career Center. Last year, at least 96 new internship and co-op experiences in key JobsOhio industries were created for BGSU students, and the hope is to replicate that throughout northwest Ohio.

“What’s different this year is that for the first time we’re collaborating with other regional institutions,” Jackson said.

Continuing the momentum of the previous two OMIC grants, the team plans to widen the impact of the program by partnering to offer a series of “How to Create a Successful Internship/Co-op Program” employer workshops at various locations throughout northwest Ohio. Potential employer partners will be invited to learn more about developing and enhancing internships and co-ops within their organization.

Similar to the “Buy Local” initiative, the team’s philosophy in OMIC 2.5 is to “Hire Local.” BGSU’s Center for Regional Development will help team members identify neighboring potential internship business partners to support local students enrolled in programs aligning with advanced manufacturing and logistics, which are among JobsOhio target industries. The sense of community generated by local interactions can be a key benefit and develop a pipeline for future Ohio employees, Jackson said.

To support the employers offering internships as a result of the team’s efforts, grant funds will used to help offset the cost of hiring new interns and co-op students. The regional partners will subsidize employer partners between 25 percent and 50 percent of interns’ and co-op students’ wages and benefits, depending upon the company size, with smaller companies receiving a larger reimbursement.

In its role as the lead institution in the initiative, BGSU will serve as the liaison to manage the administrative aspects of the project, promote institutional partners’ targeted programs to employers and identify internship and co-op opportunities.

The OMIC 2.5 grant will also enable the Northwest Ohio Regional Team to hold quarterly meetings where the team, faculty, employers and other key stakeholders can share best practices and resources and discuss potential collaborative initiatives. The meetings will also will provide a structure to create a Regional Advisory Board, with the goal of its continuing past the OMIC grant period.

Additionally, each institution will promote internships to its students, faculty, and targeted employers using OMIC marketing materials developed with grant funding.