WorkFountain and NEI Report

Why do college graduates settle in Chicago, San Francisco, or New York? For one, there are jobs there, and that is where the graduates before them went. Studies show that if a college graduate lands a job within six months of graduation, she is likely to stay in that place. And what better way to get a job then to secure an internship first? 

The recession of the mid- to late 2000s created a “brain drain” in the state of Michigan. As the economy improved, overcoming that myth proved difficult. College graduates had come to believe that there wasn’t work in the state. Employers needed college-educated talent to build the next generation of the labor force and become and remain globally competitive. However, complex market conditions made it difficult for employers to recruit and retain this talent. Intern in Michigan was launched to address these two problems. 

Intern in Michigan was created by the founders of Digerati, a technology company specializing in software solutions. The founders, both graduates of the University of Michigan in the early 2000s, saw the dysfunctional nature the of the intern system, for both the students and employers. The system was catch-as-catch-can, with students going to career-placement offices or scrolling through lists of internship opportunities with no idea whether they might be a good match. At one public university, there are 29 placement offices scattered around the campus. For employers, the search could be time-intensive and not particularly focused, the students coming across the actual or virtual transom being their only choices. 

In 2009, NEI made an early investment in Digerati’s Intern in Michigan program to build a rational system designed to retain talent in the region. Simply put, Intern in Michigan created a questionnaire for students that defined their skills and interests and one for employers that outlined their skill needs. Digerati used its systems design knowledge to build a technology platform that utilizes sophisticated matching algorithms to connect candidates to employers based on skills, interests, and job requirements. The system provides curated job-matching to ensure that employers are connected to the most qualified candidates, while job seekers get matched to employers and opportunities that best fit their unique profiles. 

Like many new ideas, Intern in Michigan did not take off instantly. There were hiccups along the way. Digerati needed to make sure that the questions it was asking resulted in the right information and were concise enough that both the students and the businesses would find the time spent useful. But today, Intern in Michigan is hitting its stride. Since inception, the platform has had more than 20,000 positions posted by some 8,000 companies. Nearly 100,000 candidates have signed on to the system from nearly 1,200 colleges and universities around the country and across the world. Companies of all sizes are represented on the platform, with 48 percent having fewer than 26 employees, and two-thirds are repeat users. 

The program has proved so successful that it was replicated in Ohio. Further, it led to the creation of Work Fountain, a new employment system for matching job seekers and employers. As a result of both Intern in Michigan and Work Fountain, talent is finding work, and employers have an effective tool for finding and securing the talent they need to grow their businesses.