Internships Create Job Opportunities in Central Ohio’s Innovation Economy
What do 26 Central Ohio startups, eight Ohio colleges, and universities, and more than 100 student interns have in common?
In less than a year, through the Rev1 Innovation Internship Program, the 100+
students are building career pathways into Central Ohio’s innovation economy. The 26 enterprising new businesses are tapping into a remarkable pipeline of local talent. The eight colleges and universities facilitate real-world, real work internship experiences for students that can lead to jobs.
Most importantly, with 62 to 68 percent diverse cohorts, we are making mutually beneficial connections between underserved communities and the high-growth startups that will be the job and wealth creators of the future.
Ohio Wesleyan University Develops Power Skills
The Innovation Internship Program is a partner-driven initiative. Ohio Wesleyan University (OWU) has been in the program from the beginning.
“About three years ago, OWU began rethinking our career services,” said Megan Ellis, executive director of OWU Career Connection. “We wanted to do more to benefit our students. The traditional model requires students to come to the team and seek help. We started instead of going to them.”
OWU guides students into career exploration, emphasizing building the skills that include leadership, critical thinking, problem-solving, networking, and building social capital.
“Some of our students may not have as much social capital as other students,” Ellis said. “We help them become part of a career community led by a career-coach and other students with like-minded future interests. These communities help our students build valuable relationships with students, alumni, and employers.”
Internships are an essential aspect of the OWU strategy, hence the connection to the innovation internships.
“We have had a strong entrepreneurial mindset for years and years,” said Ellis, director of Delaware Entrepreneur Center at OWU. “A lot of our alums have been in more traditional careers and then grew into entrepreneurial endeavors. Many of our students, who don’t know if they want to be entrepreneurs yet, love the environment of working with entrepreneurs.”
Ellis says that internships with startups are powerful role-modeling tools for OWU students.
“They can see themselves as these entrepreneurial leaders,” she said. “That is so impactful. A student from low income or a first-generation student can see someone who looks like them as starting a company, doing great things, and contributing back to society.”
Ellis has been impressed by how well Rev1 adapted to provide virtual internships in the pandemic. “It was seamless,” she said. Equally impressive was the resiliency of the OWU students.
“With everything going on, they could have said that internships and career experiences were the last things on their mind. Instead, they stepped up in so many ways,” said Ellis. “We have seen an increase in applications for internships. We have seen an eagerness. OWU students adjusted on the fly. They have grit and really stepped up to the plate. Persevering through hardships—that’s the entrepreneurial mindset.”
Four Interns Have Been Offered Full-Time Positions with Their Startups
Kraig Gildenmeister, a radar systems engineer at GhostWave, first came to the startup as an intern to provide engineer support for a critical prototype. Gildenmeister earned his MS degree in Engineering, with a focus on radio frequency from The Ohio State University (OSU). He had worked in larger corporations and always been interested in the quick pace of startup culture.
GhostWave is making radar sensors that reduce frequency interference and overlap, especially important with the Internet of Things (IoT). Gildenmeister and Dean Zody, GhostWave CEO, approached the internship with the idea of longer-term employment. As of last fall, Zody hired Gildenmeister full-time.
“I enjoy being one of two members of a company,” Gildenmeister said. “I like the day-to-day life of a startup, going from radar engineering to working out our HR manual and benefits, from company organization to product research and development. Rather than revamping products, I like creating from the ground up. In a corporate world, you have a lot of resources. In a startup, you don’t have those; it is very much sink or swim.”
As for the most critical startup lesson, Gildenmeister said, “You must not be afraid to fail. Take one step at a time. Failure is bound to happen. I can’t let the fear of failure itself stop me from moving on. In a startup, failure just can’t be your last step.”
Fourth Internship Cohort Advancing Now
The Innovation Internship Program is barely one-year post-launch, and already our fourth cohort of students are accepting internship offers with Central Ohio’s most promising startup companies. We are on track to place another fifty-five or more interns through the end of 2021.
This program is a first for Rev1. When we began planning in 2019, we imagined that we would encounter challenges for sure as first-timers. Little did we plan for the realities of 2020. As it turned out, the interns, the startups, and our team supporting them didn’t miss a beat.
Learn how internships drive startup growth here.
An Ohio Case Study: Internships Key to Aware’s Talent Strategy here.
For startups or innovators that want to become part of the program, please visit https://www.rev1ventures.com/internship-program-for-startups/.
For college and graduate students looking to expand their experience, please visit https://www.rev1venturescom/interns/.
Please email Alison Lopriore with questions or suggestions.