EDINBURG, RGV – For the past year and a half, UTRGV’s Robert C. Vackar College of Business and Entrepreneurship has implemented an internship program to encourage companies around the region to take in local talent from the University.

Maria Leonard, internship coordinator for UTRGV’s Robert C. Vackar College of Business and Entrepreneurship (VCOBE), says while the University’s career center is doing a great job of placing their students, there are 28,000 students attending UTRGV with only a handful of people at the career center. Leonard told the Rio Grande Guardian it would be ideal for each college to have its own internship coordinator that would understand the needs of the college students and the employers.

“We go out and meet with employers, tell them about our students and talk to them about our internship as a way for them to recruit. An internship for our University is 150 hours minimum commitment. So, if you’re an employer looking to do a project that nobody in your office has time to do then this would be a great way to get it done,” Leonard said.

“This is a great way for students to get into an industry, try it out and see if this is something that they want to do as a career. It’s a very inexpensive way for the employer to test the talent. We’re finding that all students want is the opportunity. In the last year we’ve spoken to about 70 different companies, we have opened approximately 122 positions and what has happened is that our students are either getting hired full-time after the internship or getting rehired in another internship.”

Only 30 percent of UTRGV students are registered on the career portal, so Leonard says they often host events to motivate the students and help them understand that internships are important for their career.

One thing the VCOBE internship program does differently is that all internships are paid internships. Other strategic approaches include personal meetings with the chambers of commerce, EDCs and other leadership groups to discuss the talent these companies can find in the pool of UTRGV’s 3,000 business students.

“The other thing is we don’t want our students to leave. Many of our students feel that in order for them to make a good living they have to leave the valley. We want them to understand that there are many individuals who are very successful in the RGV and they can be those individuals in the future,” Leonard said.

“We’re also finding that different personalities will match different industries and we’re finding that there are all types of industries for out students to work for. One example is that the produce industry is doing a partnership with the Texas International Produce Association. There are jobs in logistics, production and growers and marketing.”

Ramiro Quintero is a former student from UTRGV who graduated with his bachelor’s degree in business management December 2017. He is currently working in talent acquisition for Farmer’s Insurance and says being involved within the University is what recruiters are interested in.

“There’s a lot for value for students to be involved in student organizations because you learn things from books and professors, but once you apply it, do it yourself put it to work then that becomes knowledge,” Quintero, the Reynosa native said.

“I look at resumes from students because I do the first screening for interns and the first thing I look at are the abilities, skills and the involvement that they have. I’d just advise for them to be really involved so that they can start putting what they’re learning–from their quizzes and their tests–to work and quantifying it. That way they can bring value to the table when they’re in their interview.”

A current student at UTRGV, Ryan Montero, is currently pursuing his bachelor’s in accounting and will be interning this summer in Delaware with JP Morgan Chase. He’s the vice president internal for the local chapter of the Association of Latino Professionals for America (ALPFA) and says people from the Valley are very cultured and very hesitant about relocating. However, Montero finds that relocating outside of the region and even outside of the state will encourage big corporations to recruit from the RGV.

“My next goal of being a leader in that organization is to help our members get internships. There’s a small percentage of students that are enrolled here compared to those that get internships or are working somewhere in the business field,” Montero said.

“So, I want to utilize the experiences that I get from the local internship as an accounting intern and the corporate internship in Delaware to help show the members how to better attract these companies.”