LVEDC Co-Hosts Discussion About Lehigh Valley Internship Programs

By Colin McEvoy on July 30, 2019

More than 100 people attended the first-ever Lehigh Valley Internship Summit, held on July 30 at the Moravian College campus in Bethlehem.

When the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC) decided to team up with local colleges and universities to host an informational summit about internship programs, the organizations did not initially know how much of a demand to expect.

“We thought we’d try this and see if maybe there would be some interest,” said Amy Saul, Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs at Moravian College. “We ended up filling up to capacity in two days!”

More than 100 people attended the first-ever Lehigh Valley Internship Summit, held on July 30 at the Moravian campus in Bethlehem. LVEDC expects to maintain the momentum and collaborate on similar events in the future due to the high level of interest from this summit.

The event sought to give Lehigh Valley employers insights on how to build internship programs or improve the business value of existing programs, according to Karianne Gelinas, LVEDC Vice President of Strategic Initiatives and Research.

It also provided employers the opportunity to interact directly with Lehigh Valley colleges and universities that place students with businesses, as well as with employers that have successfully used interns for many years.

“When we conducted our talent supply study, connecting employers with talent was one of the top recommendations,” Gelinas said. “Employers, colleges, and students are all seeking to build stronger relationships, so we felt this summit was a great way to bring them all together.”

The event included sessions about how to start a successful internship program, how to bring existing internships to the next level, how to conduct effective intern performance evaluations, and the legal aspects of offering internships.

“We really want you to take some information away from this that you’ll be able to take back and use at your work,” said Amy Saul, Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs at Moravian College. “To that end, we’ll continue to engage you with resources, hold more events like this, and continue this discussion into the future.”

In response to a year-long regional talent market study commissioned by LVEDC, the LVEDC Education and Talent Supply Council formed five work groups to focus on specific findings in the study and to form strategies and recommendations to execute upon them.

One of the work groups is focused specifically on internships, co-ops, apprenticeships, and mentorships, and the Lehigh Valley Internship Summit was one of the first ideas to come out of that work group in partnership with the Lehigh Valley colleges and universities, Gelinas said.

LVEDC President & CEO Don Cunningham said attracting a high-quality workforce is the number one issue in economic development today, not just regionally but nationally. While in the past employees would follow the employer to whatever location it chose, today companies are seeking locations where the talent is already located.

“Fortunately for us in the Lehigh Valley, we have a great network of higher education institutions, from four-year colleges and universities to 9th-to-12th-grade vocational and technical schools,” Cunningham said. “What we haven’t had is a region-wide coalition around efforts like this, and that’s what we’re trying to accomplish here.”

All of the Lehigh Valley’s higher education institutions were involved in planning for the Internship Summit through the LVEDC Education and Talent Supply Council, Gelinas said.

Those in attendance at the summit included Cedar Crest College, DeSales University, Kutztown University, Lafayette College, Lehigh Carbon Community College, Moravian College, Muhlenberg College, and Northampton Community College.

PPL Corporation, PPL Electric Utilities, Fitzpatrick Lentz & Bubba, and the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce also presented during the sessions.

Kathleen Barr, Director of Career Development at Moravian College, presented at a session about how to start a successful internship program. She said it should not simply advance the interests of the employer, but provide a meaningful, developmental, educational experience for the intern as well.

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