UWM to place 100 students in paid internships to help Wisconsin build diverse workforce

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee has received a $500,000 grant to place 100 students from underrepresented populations in paid internships with Milwaukee-area corporations over the next two years.

The internship program will help address one of the greatest challenges facing Wisconsin employers: a lack of skilled workers from diverse backgrounds.

“This is another fantastic example of the innovative partnerships the University of Wisconsin System is engaging on to help students succeed while connecting with our business partners to enhance the educational experience,” UW System President Tommy Thompson said. “It’s the Wisconsin Idea in action.”

The UWM Student Success & Talent Pipeline is a partnership between UW-Milwaukee and the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC) and made possible through a $500,000 Wisconsin Fast Forward grant provided by the Department of Workforce Development. Companies participating in the program have signed on to MMAC’s Region of Choice initiative to address racial disparities and improve prosperity for all.

“This is more than a three-way win with students, businesses and our communities benefiting,” UWM Chancellor Mark Mone said. “Lives and livelihoods are being transformed. This is the kind of partnership that has won UWM recognition for community engagement from the Carnegie Community Engagement Classification. We are grateful for the Department of Workforce Development’s support and the MMAC’s partnership.”

Thompson, Mone and others will discuss the new program at a 10:30 a.m. news conference Thursday, Dec. 16, at the UWM Lubar Enterpreneuership Center, 2100 E. Kenwood Blvd., Milwaukee.

UWM will recruit student interns and seek corporate partners to host them. The university will also provide support and guidance for students and host companies to ensure the best and most effective training for all involved. Included in the student support network will be on-site mentors, campus success coaches and coursework designed specifically to develop the students’ professional skill sets.

UWM emphasizes experiential learning, which is the melding of classroom learning with hands-on experiences like internships, apprenticeships and entrepreneurial programs. The pipeline program provides an important avenue for this, and it dovetails with MMAC’s Region of Choice efforts, which prioritize recruiting more employees of color at all levels of an organization.

A third of UWM’s students are students of color, and UWM was the first four-year public institution to take MMAC’s Region of Choice pledge. In concert with more than 100 leading employers, UWM has promised to help reduce the prosperity gap between the Milwaukee area’s white population and its Black and Latinx populations, committing to a 25% increase in leaders and managers of color at UWM, as well as a 15% increase in employees of color, by the year 2025.

The pipeline program will enhance the region’s talent pool and help companies deliver on their Region of Choice pledge.

“MMAC is proud to serve as a partner in this talent accelerator,” MMAC President Tim Sheehy said. “Employers are looking for opportunities to broaden their talent recruitment. Through this program, UWM is providing a forward-looking connection to diverse talent that expands the pool for employers, while matching students to careers. It is in complete alignment with the Region of Choice initiative, a collaboration among 120 employers that seeks to increase diverse representation in our workforce and management ranks, increase access to high-quality schools and foster the development of more diverse-owned businesses. Through this internship program, we hope to inspire the next generation of our workforce to see the Milwaukee region as the right place to grow their careers.”

Students who secure internships with one of the pipeline’s corporate partners will work 10-15 per week and earn between $15 and $21 per hour. Internships will be designed with specific outcomes in mind that benefit both the hiring organization and a student’s individual development. Funding for the internships and the pipeline’s supporting infrastructure comes from the DWD grant.

“DWD is excited to partner with the University of Wisconsin System, especially UW-Milwaukee, to connect over 100 students with internship programs,” said Pam McGillivray, DWD’s deputy secretary. “This collaborative approach ensures that we are building a diverse and equitable workforce in the Milwaukee region to meet employers’ and job seekers’ needs.”

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