Plugging the Drain of Brains

Tulsa’s Young Professionals and the administrators of local internship programs are working to retain Tulsa brains.
Tulsa’s Young Professionals, or TYPros, an affiliate of the Tulsa Metro Chamber, announced its new initiative May 4 — InternInTulsa.com — to attract quality interns and recruit college talent to Tulsa.
InternInTulsa.com resembles a university career services site where employers and students connect to build internship opportunities. The TYPros Colleges and Universities crew, led by Seth Spillman of Schnake Turnbo Frank Inc. and previously by Stephanie Godwin of Littlefield Inc., spearheaded the project.
Stuck in the Stone Age
InternInTulsa.com is composed of two sections – one for employers, the other for students. The employer section comes complete with a manual, Hire Education, published online and in print by the Tulsa Metro Chamber. The manual details how to build formal internship programs.
“We hope [this publication] may help some businesses overcome any misconceptions or concerns a business may have about hiring interns,” said Josh Roby TYPros chair and assistant vice president, business banking, at JPMorgan Chase.
“If you’re a business, and you don’t have an internship program, you’re going to get left behind,” said Chet Cadieux during a press conference. Cadieux is Chamber chairman and chairman, president and CEO of QuikTrip Corp.
Becky Frank, president and CEO of Schnake Turbo Frank Inc., said QuikTrip “does a great job of bringing in people when they’re young into the company and growing them in the business.”
“It’s important for our company to provide that same opportunity to our employees. There is nothing better for us than to have someone come in as an intern and grow in the company.”
When Ginger Holly, manager of the A.C.T. (Accelerated Career Track) program at BOk Financial, came aboard a year ago, first on her to-do list was to form a formal internship program at BOk. Last year marked the launch of the program when six college students interned at BOk.
“There is a difference between a formal internship program and the kind where friends and family hire someone and put them to work filing,” she said.
The number of formal internships in Tulsa seems to sorely outpace the number of promising college students vying for work experience, Holly said.
“If students can’t find a good internship in Oklahoma, then they’re going to look elsewhere.”
The need for formal internship programs in Tulsa is huge, said Frank.
“It’s a missed opportunity all the way around here. I think some companies that haven’t hired interns before think it’s a hassle, or they think it’s a one-sided relationship. But, it’s mutually beneficial.”
“It takes a little time to get it coordinated, but it’s worth it in the long run,” she said.
“If you increase the amount of internship opportunities in the area, make it easy for interns to find them, and make sure they get a chance to experience all that Tulsa has to offer while they are here, you will hopefully move Tulsa to the top of their list when they start looking for full-time employment,” Roby said.

Internships: ‘Mutually Beneficial’
Interns tackle challenging assignments, which are not to include Starbuck’s runs, during their time at BOk, said Holly. The work of each intern is focused in one department so he or she gets involved in operations and benefits from actual work experience.
“We want them to be actually doing, and contributing,” she said.
“We want them to have the experience of working with clients and the media. They’re not just out running errands for us,” Frank said.
Students offered internships at BOk and STF are among the best and brightest and stand to benefit local companies in myriad ways.
“One of the biggest benefits to us is, if the intern has a good experience, he or she goes back to campus for an entire year and tells their friends and professors,” Holly said.
“They’re free marketers of our program for a year. It helps our college recruiting efforts tremendously.”
Of 20 resumes submitted to STF in 2006 that met all requirements made by the intern application request, only three were offered internships. The firm received 36 qualified applications for summer 2007 and will hire but three.
“We want to make sure we have someone who thrives on spinning many plates at one time. Our program helps us see how interns do in that environment, and they get to see if they like it,” Frank said.
BOk has accepted 11 interns for summer 2007 to be divided between Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico operations.
“We hired three of the six interns from last year,” said Holly. “You’d hope you could hire six of the six, but a benefit to this is that you figure out if the person is not a fit for you, and if you’re not a fit for them, all before you enter a long-term deal.”
To accept 25 interns each year and to never have to hire off the street for the A.C.T. program is Holly’s ideal.
“I think it’s a risk-free way of hiring people. You get to see them in action for three months, and they get to evaluate if it’s something they really want to do, too.”

Straight from the Source
Kendall Beller, a 2006 graduate of the University of Oklahoma, interned at BOk last summer. She now works for the company as an A.C.T. trainee with plans for a position as junior portfolio manager. Not all programs are value-added for interns, she said.
“When I came back to school from the summer when I had the BOk internship, people asked, ‘So, how was the golden internship?’ They really wanted to hear about it, because a lot of people had internships where they didn’t want to go back to work for that company.”
Strong internship programs are few and far between in Tulsa.
“I felt really lucky just to get the internship [at Schnake Turnbo Frank Inc.] because I knew they had a really strong program,” said Texas-native Lucinda Rojas, a University of Tulsa graduate and former STF intern who now works as an account coordinator at the firm.
“It was hard at first to find opportunities for internships in Tulsa. It’s really easy to find unpaid internships, or internships where you don’t get involved in what you’re doing.”
Rojas is excited about InternInTulsa.com. In fact, she served on the TYPros crew that spearheaded the program.
“There weren’t many places besides my university’s career services department to find internship programs,” she said. “Not to speak poorly of my alma mater, but we didn’t have the best program. TU is a small school, and my department wasn’t very big. It was difficult.”
InternInTulsa.com claims that college students who have positive experiences during their internships of both the workplace and the community are more likely to become part of the Tulsa workforce.
“If I didn’t get a job in Tulsa, I was looking to go back to Texas – to Dallas, or Austin,” Rojas said.
“I think our program at BOk helps prove to college students that they can have a great career and stay in Oklahoma,” Holly said. ?



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