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Communities Capitalizing on Talent: Talent Attraction Case Studies

With the US unemployment rate reaching historical lows, communities are forced to find creative ways to attract and retain talent in their regions. Now more than ever, it is crucial for EDOs to put substantial focus on attracting the future generations of talent – millennials and Gen Z. To avoid “brain drain” and ensure the flow of regional talent from current college students and recent graduates, it is important to understand how internships can offer a very productive and impactful solution to talent attraction challenges. Below are case studies highlighting communities that have implemented internship programs and have proven it to be a successful, mutually beneficial tactic for both attracting and retaining the younger generations of talent.



A Chamber Transforms a “College Town” into “Talent Mecca”

With access to 31,414+ students at Louisiana State University, Southern University and Baton Rouge Community College, Baton Rouge has ample talent right in its backyard. But Baton Rouge Area Chamber (BRAC)’s Director of Talent Development, Melissa Thompson, noticed there was a bridge to gap when it came to retaining talent. College students would take internships with local companies over the summer, but they weren’t connected to the Baton Rouge community as a whole. On the other hand, local companies that needed fresh talent lacked the bandwidth to create comprehensive internship programs. Enter InternBR—a program designed to connect local employers to millennial talent.

Through the program, BRAC tackles the talent equation from both the student and employer side. For students, InternBR offers an additional component for those interning with a Baton Rouge company – a curriculum designed to provide area interns with professional communication and leadership skills needed to excel in their current internship and ultimately, launch their career in Baton Rouge. Most importantly, the program exposes the students to service and social opportunities to learn more about the Baton Rouge region. For employers, InternBR offers workshops and consultation that takes the guesswork out of the daunting task of starting an internship. Workshop topics include – internship basics and best practices, internship job descriptions, recruiting, feedback, and a Q&A session with area experts. The program also connects local employers with the career services teams at local schools.

Today, Baton Rouge is ranked the #13 top city for new graduates (Money, 2017) and has ambitions to become the “Intern Capital” of the nation.



Bringing Yale “Bulldogs” to Work in the Kentucky Bluegrass

In 1999, Louisville, Kentucky native and Yale alum, Rowan Claypool, imagined a creative way to address the emerging “brain drain” in his community. His plan was to capitalize on undergraduate college students’ desire for new and immersive experiences before entering the workforce. While many students try study abroad programs or settle for summer jobs in their hometowns to earn some cash, Claypool knew Louisville, Kentucky could be an appealing invitation to an “exotic” destination., The novel comprehensive program is rewarding for the right students. The “Bulldogs in the Bluegrass” summer internship program brings wide-eyed Yalies to Louisville for 10 weeks to work in a challenging paid internship, be paired with a local mentor, network with community leaders, and live in Louisville—for free.

The two-decade result? Bulldogs in the Bluegrass has brought 600+ Yalies to experience Louisville through a total immersion experience. Of those, more than 50 Yale graduates have chosen to return to Louisville to begin their careers and virtually all have been converted to Louisville “Citizens for Life.” This targeted and immersive program has been so successful, that “Bulldogs Across America” has been implemented in eight additional cities across the U.S. The collective program places roughly 120 interns annually in the participating heartland cities. Under the mentorship of Yale alumni, the students perform summer internships in a range of industries, from the nonprofit sector to cutting edge research organizations.



These case studies clearly provide validation for how vital strong internship programs can be for economic development. In our most recent Q report, DCI surveyed 1,000 individuals ages 19-25 to discover how they make career and location decisions. Through our research we found that 65% of respondents have never had an internship. These non-intern students and graduates, representing a majority of respondents, present a huge opportunity for local businesses to capitalize on the future talent in their own communities by increasing awareness and accessibility to internships.


Download our latest Q Report, “Go Fish: Reeling in Tomorrow’s Talent” to learn more about how millennials and Gen Z make career and location decisions.


Written By

Rebecca Gehman

Rebecca Gehman is an Account Manager in DCI’s Economic Development division. Since joining DCI in 2012, Rebecca has played a pivotal role in content creation, media relations and marketing strategy work for clients across the globe.

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