MHTA Still Seeking Employers, Students For High-Tech Summer Internship

The organization hopes to place 250 students in internship programs with high-tech companies throughout the state.

With the summer internship application season nearly wrapped up, the Minnesota High Tech Association is working to complete its goal of placing 250 college students in science- and technology-oriented internships at small employers throughout the state—and to secure state funding to ensure the program continues in the future.
The Minneapolis-based industry consortium said it has about 100 spots still available through its SciTechsperience program, which provides a 50 percent funding match for employers to cover student wages.
The program is meant to help MHTA achieve its goal of making Minnesota a top-five state for technology. It also helps identify and prepare top talent in a state that will have to fill about 155,000 high-tech jobs by 2020. That’s especially important for small companies that find it hard to compete for employees with the state’s bevy of large corporations, according to Margaret Anderson Kelliher, CEO of MHTA and the former Minnesota House speaker.
“[SciTechsperience] is a great way to get to know some young, enthusiastic and local talent prior to make a hiring decision,” said Steve Yanda, a vice president at Two Harbors- and Hopkins-based Actives Factory, which used interns during last summer’s program.
To be eligible for the internship, students must be a Minnesota resident with at least a 2.5 GPA, completed at least 60 credits (typically a junior or senior) and pursuing a STEM degree. To qualify, companies must be a for-proit, meet size requirements (150 or fewer employees worldwide for Twin Cities-based companies, under 250 globally for Greater Minnesota companies) and offer at least 400 hours of work to interns.
The company placed 230 students in 2016, according to the program's annual report. That exceeded their goal by 15 percent and help companies in 61 cities host internships. About 40 percent of the internships were in Greater Minnesota.
The SciTechsperience’s program funding ends after this year, and MHTA is pushing for new funding—which comes from the Department of Employment and Economic Development—from the legislature. During the last biennium, the program received $2 million. MHTA said that for every public dollar spent on the program, companies paid another $2.69 to interns.
Both the state House and Senate include funding in their omnibus jobs bills. The Senate dedicates $2.2 million in funding with requirements to place 200 students the first year and 250 the second year. The House bill provides $2.7 million with the requirement to place 300 students the first year and 350 the second year. Both also make a change that would permit 15 percent of the hires to be graduate students—a change likely to be useful to the state’s medical device industry—and would change the requirements for number of employees worldwide to a flat 250 regardless of metro/non-metro status.
One area the program is working on is increasing diversity. Women and people of color are underrepresented in the STEM fields, and the SciTechsperience’s applicant pool reflects that disparity as well. Anderson Kelliher said MHTA has increased recruiting and outreach to these groups. They’re also studying how housing availability impacts the ability of students to secure internships, especially in Greater Minnesota.
While it might seem too late to find interns, Anderson Kelliher said the process is quick—employers can be approved in as little as 48 hours—and there are still hundreds of qualified applicants looking for work.
“The next couple of weeks are a very busy times for companies and students, some of whom might have had different plans that fell through,” she said, adding that it’s a chance for employers to have top-notch students help commercialize their ideas. “The feedback we’ve had from the employers is outstanding.”
Last year, TCB examined the SciTechsperience program during an in-depth look at the state’s looming labor shortage.