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State chamber looks to expand Intern Delaware

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Intern Delaware members met for professional development events virtually. Intern Delaware is geared to selling the state as a place to work and develop a career path. | PHOTO COURTESY INTERN DELAWARE

DOVER – Working to overcome the economic fallout and find ways to retain rising talent, the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce (DSCC) is adding Intern Delaware to its roster and expanding it throughout the state.

Intern Delaware will be overseen by The Partnership, the DSCC’s workforce development affiliate best known for its Delaware Principal for a Day and Superstars in Education programs.

“There are many incredible companies within our borders, and we’re just starting to scratch the surface with companies in Kent and Sussex counties,” said CSC Vice President Scott Malfitano, who founded Intern Delaware. “Joining up with the state chamber will give this program the chance to grow and connect businesses with young talent.”

Malfitano launched Intern Delaware in 2020 to help companies’ summer interns get a look at the benefits of living in Delaware.  Through a series of educational events, interns have access to business and civic leaders while learning about the unique aspects of the state’s economy and culture. 

With a winnowing job market for recent college graduates, Malfitano said he first saw a need when one day he was thumbing through 1,400 applications for CSC’s 20 internship opportunities. He wondered where the interns would go to work once the summer was over — and what opportunities the declined candidates found.

“I started to talk with people at DuPont, Adesis, Agilent Technologies … and they all pretty much said the same the same thing: they had these bright interns come in and work their tails off for the summer and they went somewhere else to start their careers,” Malfitano told the Delaware Business Times. “A lightbulb went off. We have to start competing with Philadelphia, D.C., Baltimore and New York, and to do that, we have to show the young talent our culture and that we want them here.”

According to a 2017 Zippia report, 71% of graduates from Delaware colleges and universities leave the state for their first job, the highest rate in the country. 

“In order for Delaware to remain competitive with its neighboring states, we need to retain our young talent, which ultimately keeps businesses here,” DSCC President Michael Quaranta said in a statement. “It is my hope that State Chamber members, especially hiring and training managers, will see value in this and ultimately join us by playing a key role in developing our state’s talent pipeline.”

Before the pandemic swept the nation, Intern Delaware’s first cohort had 330 students enrolled and 21 companies involved. But the financial upheaval caused many companies to drop paid internship programs in 2020, and ultimately Intern Delaware had 147 students in its first year, most working from home. 

The group was made up of University of Delaware and Delaware State University students, but some came as far as Davidson College, York College, Loyola University, Syracuse University and others.

Every week, interns were invited to online presentations and conversations with people like Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki and entrepreneur Ben DuPont.

“What they say about Delaware is true, you know someone who knows someone to help out. It’s that kind of place,” Malfitano said. “Intern Delaware is really about selling the Delaware experience, and that’s not just the tax structure. It’s our research and development sector, it’s our culture and beauty, it’s our accessibility. Everyone knows about the tax structure, but we need to show we can outweigh any place.”

So far, Intern Delaware’s goal seems to be working, as 37% of program participants were offered a job in Delaware after graduation. More than half of those students went to Delaware colleges.

With the DSCC taking Intern Delaware under its wing, Malfitano’s hope is that more diverse businesses, especially those in Kent and Sussex counties, will sign up and buy into the program. Malfitano said seven more companies have signed on, including law firms and another restaurant.

“For the employers, the big component of hiring is work culture and whether an employee fits in and invests in that person. So why can’t we be the first state to have a statewide co-op program?” Malfitano said.

As part of this transition, the DSCC is looking to fill a new full-time staff position under The Partnership to grow the program.

Visit www.interndelaware.com or email [email protected] for more information on how to participate.

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