UM Engineering Internships Help Small Biz, Grow Enterpreneurship

UM Engineering Internships Help Small Biz, Grow Enterpreneurship

April 19, 2010/GLITR


As a way to support local small businesses and give engineering students real-world experience, the University of Michigan's College of Engineering is running a unique summer internship scholarship program.


Fourteen companies in the Ann Arbor area with fewer than 500 employees have been chosen to participate. They include firms involved in software engineering, Web development, biofuels and other green technology research, Internet security, health IT consulting and other fields.


"Through this program, we're growing the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Michigan, so that when our students graduate, they can plug into a system already in place and have those relationships," said Amy Klinke, assistant director for small business initiatives at the CoE's Center for Entrepreneurship.


During the past decade, 70 percent of new jobs were created by small businesses, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration. Small businesses account for half of all private sector jobs.


"If you think about how job growth will happen in Michigan it's about entrepreneurship and small businesses," Klinke said.


The companies involved in this Michigan Engineering program are grateful for the assistance.


Jeremy Nelson is CEO and co-founder of health IT consulting firm Afia  Inc. He and co-founder Chris Akerley are College of Engineering alumni, and they're looking forward to tapping into the talent at their alma mater through this program.


"We know the quality of students that come out of the school," Nelson said. "This program helps a small business like ours begin to scale and train potential full hires as we grow."


At SRS Energy, a student will be working on turning algae into a biofuel. SRS Energy program coordinator Jennifer Bair said this internship program also opens doors for new collaboration with the university.


"Programs such as this greatly benefit small businesses like ours by opening mutual opportunities for us to work with undergraduate students, professors, and post doctoral students at UM. Also, it creates avenues for us to access analytical equipment on the UM campus along with creating potential joint grant applications," Bair said.


The UM Office of the Vice President for Research and the Michigan Initiative for Innovation and Entrepreneurship are also supporting the program with funding.


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