New Colorado Springs business program for summer interns seeks long-term solution to worker shortage | business

Summer interns might only spend a few months working at jobs in Colorado Springs, but area business leaders have created a new program to provide them with surroundings designed to make them want to stay or return — and bolster the local workforce in the process.

The Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce & EDC this summer has launched Hello Colorado Springs — an engagement program in which interns from around the city will have a chance to work, learn and socialize together.

The inaugural program provides 36 participating interns with housing, event and networking opportunities. It comes at a time when the city, state and nation face an ongoing worker shortage; with Hello Colorado Springs, the Chamber & EDC hopes to attract and retain talent in a growing city by providing professional and social ties for interns.

“What we are doing is finding our talented workforce that is already present and we are encouraging them to stay,” said Camille Lavon, who manages the Chamber & EDC’s talent initiatives. “And then we are also asking a talented workforce that is potentially moving to our area to come on in and providing them that community.”

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Six participating companies — including defense technology firm Bluestaq, semiconductor manufacturer Microchip Technology and Kratos Defense & Security Solutions — paid $2,700 for each intern to live at Colorado College dorms and participate in 14 networking and social events such as dinner etiquette classes and Colorado Springs Switchback soccer games. Interns whose full housing costs weren’t covered by their employer contributed $800 toward their two months of summer housing.

“We want the idea to be that the interns form a community amongst themselves, a community with their business, and then a community at large with the Colorado Springs area,” Lavon said. “We really want to make sure that no matter where they look, they have a friend in arms — somebody that they’re connecting with in this community.”

With job postings at a record high because of a “tsunami” of retirees, declining birth rates and slowed immigration patterns due to law changes, investing in young workers by bolstering internships is one “fantastic” way to fill the gaps of worker shortages, said Tatiana Bailey, an economist and director of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs Economic Forum.

“It gives the students working experience,” Bailey said. “It gives the company an opportunity to test out a worker, if you will, and if they do well, bring them back for full-time employment.”

Because Hello Colorado Springs focuses on relationship building and retaining talent by growing the community, it helps raise the tide for the entire workforce, said Mike Juran, CEO of Altia, a tech company participating in Hello Colorado Springs.

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“Growing (the) workforce is, of course, key to the success of not only our company, but our city,” Juran said. “Right now … people don’t know where we’re going to land. Are we going to be an office or are we going to be having people work completely remotely? But one of the things we know is … people still want a sense of community.”

That community is exactly what Hello Colorado Springs is trying to build.

Biggs Kofford, an accounting firm, found Hello Colorado Springs to be a “win, win, win” for the interns, the company and the community, said Marketing and Communication Director Kirsten Texler.

“The world is at your doorstep here at Colorado Springs,” Texler said. “But that doesn’t mean it’s easy to find all the gems.”

Wyatt Kent, a Biggs Kofford intern from in Birmingham, Ala., was set on living in Colorado Springs. His internship with Biggs Kofford gave him the chance to come to Colorado Springs, and Hello Colorado Springs made that transition easier.

“I didn’t really have any friends or anything like that when I moved out here,” Kent said. “So having the opportunity to meet a lot of different people that are in a very similar situation to me, kind of in the same boat … it’s been nice.”

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Kent, who is going into his senior year of college, said the program gave him the kind of community-building opportunities he had as a freshman.

“This is definitely one of the coolest programs I’ve ever been (a part) of in my entire life,” Kent said. “…Everybody in the chamber was super excited to get us out in the city and be able to experience these different things and kind of join them in loving this place that they call home, and I could definitely see this becoming a place where I you know settle.”

Hello Colorado Springs runs through the end of July, with enrollment for 2023 opening this fall.

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