Wayne State University is helping TechTown startup companies secure the best and brightest college talent with a new incentive program that rewards entrepreneurs for hiring work-study students.
Companies in the TechTown community will now be eligible to receive a 50 to 100 percent reimbursement from Wayne State of the students’ work-study salaries. The effort reflects a novel collaboration between the University and TechTown to attract businesses to Detroit.
“The goals of the program align with the economic development goals of the region,” said TechTown General Manager Leslie Smith. “Attracting high growth companies, top talent and professors who commercialize their ideas, patents and publications will create jobs. Student internships are critical to the prevention of a regional brain drain and integral to the continuous creation of young entrepreneurial talent, which is good for all of us.”
Wayne State’s Career Services Department, which helps students find paid internships and co-op job opportunities, will coordinate with the university’s Technology Commercialization Office and Front Door business engagement center to identify openings and match them with suitable WSU student candidates. Initially, Wayne State will place one student — at no additional cost to the TechTown company that licenses a technology from the university — to work on specific projects such as refining a business plan, conducting market research or developing a funding or sales pitch.
According to Faris Alami, entrepreneurial talent champion at TechTown, this is “a win for the university, a win for the students, a win for the companies and a win for the community.” Alami, who has given rise to numerous startups by matching clients’ diverse skill sets with small business needs, noted, “The students gain first-hand knowledge of the startup life cycle through exposure to new and innovative technologies, and, in the process, become entrepreneurial themselves.”
Wayne State University Director of Career Services Ron Kent concurs.
“Such hands-on internships often lead to permanent jobs after graduation, not to mention opportunities in related industries,” Kent said.
TechTown startup companies benefit from this arrangement as much as the students. College interns offer additional resources and fresh thinking that can spur technology companies to lead market innovation.
“As Wayne State’s world-class faculty license WSU research and technology, they can enlist a talented student intern at up to a 100 percent pay reimbursement to help them launch their businesses,” said Gloria Heppner, Wayne State’s associate vice president for research. “This support can be critical in successfully easing the transition from researcher to entrepreneur.”
In March of 2011, TechTown and Wayne State launched their first joint internship partnership, which provided up to a 50 percent reimbursement for interns who get jobs at TechTown through an online talent portal. That program is showing success as two Wayne State student interns have been placed, and 10 additional TechTown companies have signed on to create 14 new internships.
Given these results, Alami is especially optimistic about the tech commercialization focus of this new internship partnership between TechTown and Wayne State.
“This internship program gives technology startups a compelling incentive to plant roots in Detroit,” Alami said. “We are confident that, by bringing new products and services to market, Wayne State students will plant their roots here as well.”