Today's business mandate is to increase productivity while keeping operational costs the same. Rising to the challenge means working smarter, and one of the smartest approaches is to recruit an intern.

Interns are students, most in their final semesters of undergraduate programs, who are looking for practical, hands-on experience in their fields before they hit the real world. In return, they provide enthusiasm, fresh ideas and a bargain, since many work for low wages or for free.

Melissa Link, creative director at XTOOLS at Lakewood Ranch, has used graphic design interns from Manatee Community College. "The students come to us with fresh eyes and new creative ideas," she says. "They help keep our costs down, for sure, but we also use them because we like giving back to the community." Likewise, Parnell Lalonde, IT manager at Pierce Manufacturing in Bradenton say MCC interns have saved his company money. [They're] "less costly than hiring through a temp service."

Local schools have a number of internship programs. Here are a few to contact..

o At Sarasota Technical Institute (SCTI), students combine regular classroom instruction with about 100 hours (or roughly 15 hours a week for one semester) of related employment in a variety of career fields. Court reporting students, for example, train as broadcast captioners and medical or legal stenographers. Accounting students work at CPA firms or corporate accounting offices. "To ensure a mutual benefit for everyone, student, teacher, and prospective employer all sit down together to formulate a relevant job description," says Regina Stinson, accounting instructor at SCTI. "We also conduct regular evaluations to keep everyone on task." Stinson has about 35 accounting students per year, and many are interested in interning. "FCCI is one of the companies that regularly interns our students. We have a great relationship with them."

Also placing interns are SCTI's medical and legal secretary programs, information technology, business administration and the lodging operations program, which trains students in the hospitality industry. SCTI also offers apprenticeship programs for adult students who work for an affiliated employer during the day and attend night classes a few times a week to reinforce learned job skills.

o Keiser College at Lakewood Ranch cultivates two kinds of internships: mandatory internships for accredited degrees in the medical profession- such as nursing and radiology-and voluntary internships, which include criminal justice, paralegal studies, business and accounting, computer programming, network administration and graphic design. Brad Brewer, director of student services, meets with individual companies and non-profits to explore their needs, then fills the position with the right student. "Because we are a private institution, we have a little more flexibility to cater our programs to suit each employer's needs." Keiser College offers a posting service at www.keisercollege.cc.fl.us.

o Graphic design students at Ringling School of Art and Design are often offered opportunities at nationally renowned studios, such as Disney Imagineering and Lucas Arts Entertainment. But local businesses can take advantage of these students for Web design needs; startup companies use Ringling interns to create logos, ads and brochures.

o USF Sarasota-Manatee promotes various internship programs as well. Businesses and organizations may post intern opportunities on a secure site (www.usf.com) for students to review.

o Area chambers of commerce are another source. The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with the Manatee Chamber, has added an internship component to its Web site. Businesses can log in, create a secure account and post internships, just as internship seekers can post their resumes. "It makes good economic sense to connect the two at every level we can," says Ron Turner, economic development director for the Sarasota Chamber. "Our goal is to stop the 'brain drain syndrome' that was happening here-educating our youth locally, just to have them move out of the market to find a job. If you make it easier for graduates to stay, more than likely, they will."

Intern Aid

Manatee Community College

Toni Ripo

Career Resource Advisor

(941)752-5259

[email protected]

(www.oco.mccfl.edu)

USF

Jennifer Straub

Assistant Director

Employer Relations Team

(813) 974-9722

[email protected]

Ringling School of Art & Design

Career Services Office

(941) 359-7501

[email protected]

Keiser College

Brad Brewer

Director of student services

(941) 907-3900

[email protected]

SCTI

Placement services

(941) 924-1365, ext. 62356

Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce

www.jobfocus.com

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