How partnering with local colleges and universities can provide business benefits Featured

8:00pm EDT September 25, 2010

Every business is looking for that extra edge — that one little thing that will pull an organization past its competitors and to the head of its industry.

Perhaps you’ve considered trying new and advanced technologies. Maybe you’re thinking about implementing some efficient processes. But have you thought about going back to school?

“Partnering with your local colleges and universities brings a company great service, offered free, with no strings attached,” says Melissa Hulsey, the president and CEO of Ashton. “That should get the attention of any business in this economic climate and it is a great way to describe the career services offered by many colleges and universities in Georgia and around the country.”

Smart Business spoke with Hulsey about partnering with local colleges and universities and the value that comes from such partnerships.

How can partnering with local schools be mutually beneficial?

Employers can post their job openings to the colleges’ and universities’ websites at no cost, where both students and alumni can access them at any time. Not only that, companies can schedule on-campus recruiting visits, have access to statewide resume books and participate in career fairs. This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the benefits that employers can see from a partnership.

The students and alumni also benefit by having access to companies they may not have been able to connect with before. Thus, students can obtain valuable experience related to their majors and possibly identify and reach out to their future employers. The schools also benefit because they’re the ones providing these resources. A partnership with a college or university is truly a win, win, win situation.

How can a business work with a school to develop internship programs and mentoring?

The first step in developing an internship or co-op program is to contact the career services department of the desired college or university. Generally, an internship is defined as a job relating to the major of the participating student, that is one semester long and may be paid or unpaid. A co-op is also a job relating to the major of the participating student, but it is generally two semesters long and must be paid. A career services representative can assist in deciding what program will work best for your business. They can also assist in defining job requirements, establishing a rate of pay, if applicable, and reviewing the program for areas of improvement.

On-campus interviews and automated applicant tracking make this an easy program to implement into a company’s new hire process.

Another great benefit businesses can see is the supervisory experience that internships or co-ops can offer to full-time staff. Junior staff members can manage the internship/co-op process, giving them valuable training, again at no cost to the company.

In what ways do schools help businesses connect with the community?

Participating in career fairs is one way to connect with the community. Potential employers are invited to come on campus and present their opportunities to students and alumni. Many times the names of companies in attendance are published in local media, serving as a great free advertising source. Networking with other participating businesses can lead to new business relationships. Students are known for bringing fresh ideas and being technologically savvy, so tapping into this resource can only help a business in its community relations effort.

How can a business find a school that’s a good fit, and then begin a relationship?

Begin by reviewing what type of position in your organization would benefit from using students or recent graduates. What students bring in terms of motivation and lower cost must many times be balanced by a lack of on-the-job experience. Will your job be project-based or do you seek someone that could move into a full-time position at your company? Once a job has been identified, list the colleges or universities that produce these majors and begin contacting them to discuss your opportunities. Do not underestimate the technical college system in the State of Georgia when contacting schools. Technical colleges are very specialized in their training and offer areas of study that make students quickly available for the work force. Technical colleges also offer services like quick start and other customized training programs for businesses.

What would you tell a business leader who doesn’t see the value in working with local schools?

I would tell them that their competition probably sees the value in this resource, and may already be utilizing it. A qualified, diverse talent pool is available and waiting to be tapped into. Businesses have the opportunity to mold the next generation of leaders, they just need to take advantage. You never know, you could just find a diamond in the rough for your company.

Melissa Hulsey is the president and CEO of Ashton. Reach her at (770) 419-1776 or