- The Small-Business Intern Initiative supports small businesses within 40 miles of the UTC campus. Applications for summer 2022 are being accepted through March 1.
- Employers interested in being considered for the partnership can click here to be directed to a sign-up/application link.
- CECS students interested in applying to the internship program should contact career counselor Nicole Wake for additional information.
Small businesses without internship budgets and women and minority students seeking internships all stand to benefit from the launch of a new program announced Tuesday by the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga College of Engineering and Computer Science (CECS).
The announcement of the Small-Business Intern Initiative was part of a celebration commemorating a $125,000 gift from Truist. The funding from the financial services company will provide paid student internships at smaller businesses that lack capital for internships, with a particular focus on women and minority students.
As a partnership with small businesses within 40 miles of campus, the initiative has a threefold benefit: Offering students a broader range of opportunities to gain internship experience; strengthening relationships between UTC and local businesses; and showcasing the benefits of larger companies supporting smaller companies, demonstrating the welcoming nature of Chattanooga as a place for startups and new initiatives.
“This is a partnership focused on helping students with gaining real-world experience so they are job-ready upon graduation,” UTC Chancellor Steven R. Angle said. “Large companies often have active internship programs, but smaller ones struggle with having the resources to compete for their students. Yet, some of those small businesses offer some of the most rewarding opportunities for our students to engage in because they get to do so many different things.
“This initiative will prioritize both small business development and hands-on learning opportunities for students by providing funding for the internships.”
In talking about the dual importance of adding internship opportunities for students while assisting small businesses with budget constraints, CECS Dean Daniel Pack pointed out an important long-term component to the initiative.
“We are promoting the economic role of the region by assisting these small businesses,” Pack said. “The approach that we’re taking, a partnership between private, academic and nonprofit organizations, really establishes seed funding for an endowed internship program for the future.
“That’s our plan, making this an internship of perpetuity for future students who attend the College.”
Other speakers included Joe Ferguson, chair of the College’s executive advisory board and former EPB board chair, and Jim Vaughn, market president at Truist and a member of the College’s executive advisory board.
“The major focus of this grant is workforce development, which is much needed in our area,” Vaughn said. “This funding offers College of Engineering and Computer Science students paid internships focused on small businesses, supporting both the students and the small businesses and creating a win-win across the board.
“At Truist, we’re committed to advancing diversity, equity and inclusion. We’re excited to expose more students to the Greater Chattanooga business community, creating opportunities to help them thrive. That’s our purpose at Truist, to inspire and build better lives and communities.”
Irene Hillman, CECS director of student success, said the program would create 25 student internship opportunities, as small businesses will receive $5,000 to fund those internships.
“What I love about this program is that it’s so Chattanooga. It’s collaborative. It’s a private business supporting a public university supporting private businesses,” Hillman said. “Chattanooga does collaboration really, really well, and this program is a great example of that.”
She said the College actively seeks small-business partners, with internships slated to begin in summer 2022.
“We will collect resumes from students interested in the program and we’ll send them out to the employers. They will do the screening, the interviewing and the selecting of candidates,” she said.
According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, 56% of internships result in full-time or permanent positions.
Interning helps students immerse themselves in their chosen profession with real-world applications through hands-on projects that they may or may not have been exposed to in the classroom—as well as possibly discover new fields of interest.
“When we think about career development, we’re thinking along the lines of, ‘What’s the Monday after graduation looking like for our students?’” Hillman said. “We want them to move into roles where their strengths are utilized, their purpose is being honored and they feel happy when they go to work. An internship opportunity is a great way for students to recognize where they fit in the world of work.
“I hope this is also the kickstart for businesses. When they think about internships, I hope that they will consider our interns as possible full-time hires for their staffs.”