Iowa Innovation Associates connects UI students with local companies

“Brain drain,” or the flight of educated young people out of the state, has long been discussed in Iowa. Recently, the University of Iowa has launched a new internship program to try and combat the phenomena.

Iowa Innovation Associates is a program, partially funded by the state of Iowa legislature, that pays undergraduate and graduate students $15 per hour to intern at Iowa-based companies. For 10 to 20 hours per week, participating companies get the support of a free intern, and students can be exposed to opportunities within the state.

Phil Jordan (Photo via Tippie College of Business)

Phil Jordan (Photo via Tippie College of Business)

Any Iowa company can apply, but the program is targeted toward smaller and more entrepreneurial companies, who do not have the human resources capacity to recruit students through traditional channels like career fairs, said Phil Jordan, business liaison in the Tippie College of Business and John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center, who is managing the program.

“We want, ideally, to give Iowa employers a chance to get project work done, but also do a little recruiting of our students,” he said.

Companies statewide can participate if the student can telecommute from Iowa City during the semester.

While the program is just getting started, Jordan said there has been strong interest from students, and a few have already been placed in IT and service sectors.

He noted that the students’ projects must have educational and professional development value, something they could add to a resume or portfolio – the program isn’t designed for interns to fetch coffee or sort files.

“Once you get in the real world, it’s a lot messier than what’s in the textbook,” Jordan said. “But that’s life.”

Employers can learn more by visiting the JPEC website or contacting Phil Jordan.

Iowa Innovation Associates is just one program the UI has launched recently that is open to people throughout the state of Iowa. Venture School, a six-week program where business owners learn by talking to customers, partners and competitors, which is beginning a Des Moines session in February. Dev/Iowa Boot Camps are working to train more web developers in the state.