Ohio Startups Find their Future with Diversity & Inclusion Technology Internship

How the Ohio Third Frontier program diversifies workplaces and guides talent

You already know that Ohio is a hotbed for emerging talent, particularly for startups and tech companies. But did you know there’s an easy way for companies to improve their organization’s diversity while finding great new talent? The Ohio Third Frontier’s Diversity & Inclusion Technology Internship Program is gearing up for summer internships, and ready to pair college students with companies looking for a youth boost! And while the program is a great way for students to work with companies on the cutting-edge, it may be an even better resource for startups.

“Our experience so far has been great,” said Eric Wagner, chief strategy officer with Converge Technologies, who has taken advantage of the program multiple times. “We found some really good candidates that we went on to hire. We were lucky to be able to find so many students who could help our engineering team, and we found some mechanical and industrial design students that we eventually hired, along with one in computer science that we plan to hire. This program provides the students a great chance to do meaningful projects with significant responsibilities.”

Like many companies, Wagner said Converge was hoping to diversify its employees, a goal that was aided by the internship program. And rather than hiring full-time employees sight unseen, he said Converge appreciated the ability to get to know a candidate while providing them a useful internship, testing them in the field while giving them a chance to grow.

“We definitely wanted more diversity, and we found candidates through the program that helped us achieve that,” said Wagner. “I’d tell other organizations that they absolutely should participate. It doesn’t matter what type of company you are, it’s a function of the fact that they bring good candidates to the table. At the end of the day, these are students who are actively looking to improve their career, and that leads to qualified candidates.”

As part of the program, Ohio Third Frontier will reimburse two thirds of interns’ wages up to $10,000. Companies can be technology focused, or simply a company with a technological need. Intern backgrounds range anywhere from communications and data analysis to business operations and software development.

Akron’s Fontus Blue took advantage of the opportunity, looking for qualified applicants who could become full-time employees. And for founder Chris Miller and his team, it worked out on the first try when they found someone they hired at the end of her internship.

“You’d be a fool to not take advantage of it,” said Miller. “Even separate from the money, it’s easy to apply, easy to get access to a quality pool of talent, and you get to work with someone with a broad, diverse skill set. Relative to supporting startups, I think it’s awesome for multiple reasons.”

For Fontus Blue, a local Akron student was a perfect fit, allowing the company to avoid the hassle of hiring an out-of-town employee and helping to give back to the Akron community. For Miller, a University of Akron professor who prides himself on overseeing the school’s highest rate of female PhD graduates, improving diversity in a pragmatic way was the ultimate goal.

“This program was kind of a no-brainer, both financially and on principal,” he said. “The process was great, and it wasn’t time-consuming to participate. Since we had someone available locally, we didn’t have any of the challenges or issues of bringing in someone from out of the area. In terms of attracting local talent, it was great.”

Interested in working with the next generation of Ohio innovators? Companies can apply for the program through Feb. 14, while students can apply between Feb. 3-28. Any company with a technological need is welcome to apply and can hire up to three interns at a time through the program.

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