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20,000 internships by 2020

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In Dayton, the question is not just how to increase graduation rates. It's also how to keep those degree-holders in Dayton after graduation day.

In March, in an effort to solve that problem, the Southwestern Ohio Consortium on Higher Education (SOCHE) launched the 20 by 20 Challenge, which aims to create 20,000 internships annually by the year 2020. (Benchmark research estimates that Dayton-area employers currently support about 8,000 internships per year.)
"We can graduate all the students we want, but if they don't stay, it doesn't improve the metric," says Sean Creighton, Executive Director of SOCHE. Internships, Creighton says, are a high-impact learning experience that builds relationships between students and employers and connects students to the region -- thereby improving the likelihood that grads will stay in Dayton. SOCHE's data shows that employment conversion rates for students who hold internships is about 58%. In fact, internships are so reliably successful for students and employers that some companies use internship programs as their sole workforce development strategy. 
"The launch of the 20 by 20 Challenge has opened up so many doors," Creighton says. "Companies that have been thinking about internships but don't know where to start, companies who have existing internship programs but want to grow them -- we’ve become the place they turn to, and we’ve seen a lot of early successes.”
Talent Dividend efforts in Dayton are part of a larger cradle-to-career initiative, Learn to Earn, which guides young Daytonians from pre-kindergarten through college and into the workforce. Since college attainment is a key milestone on that path, the two programs are a natural fit -- and combining Dayton's Talent Dividend Initiative with existing educational efforts makes the most of existing resources and allows for more cohesive relationship-building among community partners. 
Every step of the way, Dayton is emphasizing college retention and completion. At SOCHE's conferences on student success and teaching and learning; in strategy sessions about adult learners; and as a committee in the region’s council of higher ed institutions, retention and completion is a focal point.    

SOCHE, which celebrates its 45th anniversary this year, has been working on these issues for a long time as part of its mission to provide collaborative infrastructure for Dayton metro's higher ed cluster and support the region's colleges and universities in transforming their communities, their economies, and the lives of their students. Talent Dividend has allowed Dayton to deepen partnerships, expand conversations, and combine efforts -- all of which can only mean good news for the region's graduation rates, and the development of Dayton's economy. 

Source: Sean Creighton, SOCHE
Writer: Amy Elliott Bragg

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