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Internships touted at Pa. workforce development event

September 12, 2008|By DON AINES

"If an artizan has undertaken to rear a child and teaches him his craft, he cannot be demanded back.

If he has not taught him his craft, this adopted son may return to his father's house."

- The Code of Hammurabi, 1760 B.C.

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -- Babylonian law establishing contract terms between a master and apprentice might be mankind's earliest written reference to workforce development, according to Michael True, director of the Internship Center at Messiah College in Grantham, Pa.

Job training evolved through the millennia into the guilds of Medieval Europe and the internship programs of today, which True said are important to both the intern and the business. He was one of the speakers Thursday at a Workforce Development Initiative breakfast sponsored by the Greater Chambersburg Chamber Foundation.

Students need the real-world experience an internship offers, and businesses benefit from this pool of motivated, temporary and part-time workers, True said. Businesses and governments cannot use interns to replace regular employees and employers should define tasks for the interns and provide them the tools -- desks, computers, etc. -- to accomplish the work, he said.

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"We have more slots than we have students," True told a group of business people at the breakfast. Businesses interested in getting interns can contact local colleges or go to the Web site www.stayinventcentralpa.com for information about intern programs at more than 60 colleges in Central Pennsylvania.

There are solid reasons for students participating in internships, True said.

About 45 percent of employers offer higher salaries to students who took part in internship or cooperative education programs, True said. More than 60 percent of new college hires have had intern experience, he said.

The members of the business community at the breakfast also heard from members of the Franklin County Cooperative Education Coordinators Consortium, the educators who run the work education programs for the county's high schools and career and technology center.

They also received an "employer toolkit," a booklet explaining the benefits and legalities of hiring students.

Cooperative education expands the pool of potential full-time, trained employees, keeps schools informed of the skills needed by business and industry, and reduces the cost and time of training if the employer hires the student after graduation, according to Sandra Traynor, the coordinator for the program with the Chambersburg Area School District.

As with interns, there is a greater number of businesses needing co-op students than there are students in the program, Traynor said.

While Franklin County has maintained one of Pennsylvania's lowest unemployment rates for years, that has created labor shortages in some industries, Chamber Foundation Executive Director Noel Purdy. Some of the skills in short supply are welders, health care workers, and transportation and logistics workers, she said.

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