Missouri Chamber seeks intern connections, talent retention through new site

The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry has launched a new online offering as part of the Missouri 2030 plan to increase the number of skilled workers in the state. The service, called Missouri Intern Connect, is designed to help Missouri college students find internships in the state.

“The ultimate goal is to keep the workforce within Missouri or track the kids who have gone out of state come back to Missouri to work,” said Kelly Dyer, intern and business engagement director for the Missouri Chamber.

The website is designed to serve employers, students and educators. It allows employers to post internship openings and review candidates, and it enables students and educators to filter and browse internships of interest. All users create an account and share some basic information to get started.

Missouri Intern Connect came about after a study showed that only 44 percent of Missouri employers were satisfied with the availability of skilled workers in the state, prompting the Missouri Chamber to step in.

Andy Hays, director of marketing for Isle of Capri Casino Boonville, said he can relate to the 44 percent of unsatisfied employers.

“We’re always looking for that higher level talent, and we can struggle sometimes to recruit that talent just given our location,” Hays said. “There’s a limited amount of people within a certain mile radius of us, so it’s hard for us to pull people over from the larger areas of Columbia or Sedalia because of the drive.”

Hays said that any new avenue is worth trying, and he hopes that Missouri Intern Connect helps to drive up Isle of Capri’s intern applicants and keep employment within the state.

“I would love for (Missouri) to keep that homegrown talent and keep it within the state to keep us bigger and better,” Hays said. “But, at the end of the day, it comes down to the person and their vision of where they feel they need to go.”

Some other businesses don’t feel that same shortage of qualified workers, though.

Laurie Cybulski, talent acquisition manager at Kansas City architectural engineering firm GBA, said her firm’s tactic for high application turnout is simple.

“It’s not really an issue. We go to the universities that have the programs we need,” Cybulski said. “Generally, we find whether it’s an intern or a new grad, we’ve been able to place people in those positions. But it’s very targeted to university programs that we need.”

Cybulski’s motivation for posting internships to the Missouri Intern Connect website is simply to gain more exposure.

“Really, it’s just casting a very wide net and trying to reach as many people as we possibly can,” she said.

The Missouri Community College Association is using the website as well. Bobby Remis, the association’s director of communications, believes that he knows one of the potential reasons for college students leaving the state.

“We as a state have not placed a lot of emphasis on internships with organizations, or at least being able to publicize that,” Remis said. “So I think that the Missouri Intern Connect platform is a really great opportunity to assist in that endeavor.”

Dyer said the program drew inspiration from a similar program in Indiana, Indiana INTERNNet, and that Missouri Intern Connect aims to achieve the success Indiana’s program has.

“In the long run,” Dyer said, “we’d like to develop a program as robust as Indiana.”

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