Indiana INTERNnet: Plugging the ‘brain drain’
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Indiana INTERNnet: Plugging the ‘brain drain’

Zavion Herron landed an internship at the University of Notre Dame’s Center for Civic Innovation while a student at Riley High School in South Bend. He loved the cause. He loved the work. But he loved the opportunity even more.

His duties included a mix of field surveying and research, and Herron was even part of an environmental data lab project.

Olatundun Awosanya thrived at her life-and-health sciences internship at IUPUI. She worked on many projects, including research on fracture healing in patients with Type 2 diabetes.

The internship helped Awosanya build confidence and gave her a glimpse into what a real working career would be like.

Keeping Herron and Awosanya in Indiana as they seek to launch full-time careers is key to the mission of Indiana INTERNnet, an organization that connects students with employers that offer internship opportunities in Indiana.

“Our purpose, our goal is to be able to keep Indiana’s top talent in Indiana,” said executive director Mike Slocum.

Mike Slocum of Indiana INTERNnet smiling at desk in an office high rise. A tablet, charter, and gay pride flag can be seen in his work environment.
“Our purpose, our goal is to be able to keep Indiana’s top talent in Indiana,” says Mike Slocum, executive director of Indiana INTERNnet. (Photo by Faith Blackwell)

Indiana INTERNnet was formed in 2001, shortly after research revealed the state’s “brain drain” issue, the trend of top talent leaving Indiana to work.

Those numbers showed the state retained college graduates at a rate nearly 30 percentage points below the national average.

The Greater Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce originally initiated and operated Indiana INTERNnet along with the University of Indianapolis. In May 2004, Indiana INTERNnet moved to the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, the state’s largest business advocacy organization.

Since its inception, Indiana INTERNnet has grown to include 9,100 students, 2,200 employers, and 900 open positions. Recently it was helped with a Lumina Foundation grant.

Employers in almost every industry are represented, including food service, agriculture, entertainment, finance, health care, and manufacturing.

Indiana INTERNnet’s database looks much like other job boards, except it focuses solely on full-time internships, Slocum said.

“And all of our internships are specifically only hosted in Indiana,” he added. “One thing that consistently stands out in our research is that students don’t know what jobs are in our back yard.”

Slocum describes Indiana INTERNnet as “dynamic,” a searchable database, and a matching and reporting system melded with personal assistance. It also offers a hotline to answer students’ questions and provide internship guidance and resource material.

Internships are important tools because they give students practical experience in their chosen fields, making classroom lessons more concrete and relevant.

They are also beneficial for employers because they’re a source for able workers who are creative, enthusiastic, and open to mentorship. Interns often move into full-time positions, which can save employers’ time and money in recruitment.

Schools and colleges benefit, too, because internships can establish a collaborative work environment between the school and community that often helps enhance curriculum and increase student success.

“The goal is to help create or expand high-quality experiential opportunities for students within Indiana,” Slocum said. “And that is beneficial for all involved.”


Learn more about Indiana INTERNnet.

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