BY Cheryl Taylor
Students at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley have access to a newly established initiative several years in the making – the All In Internship Program, to be administered by United Way of Southern Cameron County.
“The Internship Program will give students a competitive edge for high-demand jobs in Brownsville by providing them with hands-on experience, training, and a network of individuals employed in their fields of study,” said Andrea Torres, coordinator of the All In Internship Program with the UTRGV Career Center on the Brownsville Campus.
Blanca Davila, All In coordinator at United Way of Southern Cameron County, said the program is designed to further the All In goal to “increase the amount of young adults with postsecondary credentials with labor market value by 2025.”
“We have been working on developing the internship program for some time, and now, with a strong buy-in from our partners, we are eager to begin implementing the program and have students start their internships with this year’s spring semester,” Davila said.
The community and workforce partners that have committed to the program are Brownsville Economic Development Council, Brownsville Chamber of Commerce and Workforce Solutions Cameron.
The pilot program will engage three cohorts over three semesters, providing 90 internships – 45 to students at UTRGV and 45 to students at Texas Southmost College.
Each semester-long internship position will provide meaningful work assignments and a learning component related to the students’ academic majors.
Employers interested in the program attended a presentation to learn more on Thursday, Jan. 19, at Brownsville Chamber of Commerce.
Participating employers will commit to an intern salary of $10 per hour. At the end of each month, employers will be reimbursed half of the intern salary. To cover this portion of the interns’ salaries, United Way of Southern Cameron County will receive $235,300 from the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation (GBIC) to distribute to UTRGV and TSC.
At the presentation on Thursday, Juan Andres Rodriguez-Nieto, director of the UTRGV Career Center, accepted a check from United Way in the amount of $54,250 – the first half of the funds to cover UTRGV internship salaries.
Davila will work with Torres at UTRGV and Diana Rodriguez, the All In Internship Program coordinator at TSC, to coordinate training for students and employers and administer the program. The three will share best practices, work with the Brownsville Chamber to establish marketing efforts to recruit employers, and perform program evaluation.
Torres and Rodriguez will utilize preexisting career placement systems – RGV Career Connection and TSC Jobs – to recruit both students and employers into the program. They will work to ensure employers have the information needed to participate in the program and manage reimbursements to employers, and they will assist students with resume development, interview techniques, job search assistance and career coaching.
An added benefit for the interns is the workforce readiness training that focuses on ‘soft skills,’ which will be provided by Workforce Cameron, one of the All In Internship partners. This opportunity includes 20 hours of job coaching, guidance in resume writing and training in interview techniques.
ABOUT ALL IN
The All In Partnership was established in Brownsville in 2011 through a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The partnership includes leaders from 13 businesses and organizations united to create a shared agenda and strategic plan to strengthen and build partnerships, engage the local community to raise awareness about postsecondary completion rates, and remove barriers preventing students from enrolling, continuing and completing college, and gaining living wage employment.
All In has developed strategies to ensure student success through a framework focused on Preparation, Connection, Entry, Progress, Completion and Employment.
The partnership continues to work to remove barriers to educational access, improve persistence and credential attainment in high-demand career pathways, and assist Brownsville to leverage economic opportunities vital to the city’s future development.
The All In Internship Program is a strategy to incentivize students to continue postsecondary education, graduate and obtain work experience related to their degree leading to a career in a high demand occupation.