STEP-UP ready to place students at high tech internships in Minneapolis

by Curt Prins

If Minnesota aspires to realize a vibrant and growing high-tech industry, we must explore a different ways to introduce and engage our community with high-tech career opportunities. This is especially true for reaching out to our future — the youth.

Fortunately, the City of Minneapolis provides a great pathway for us to expose local youth to our high-tech community while also adding value to our various growing companies.

STEP-UP is a seven-year-old program for Minneapolis youth ages 16 to 21 to gain real-world experience through summer internships. Last year, nearly 180 organizations across Minneapolis provided these opportunities for over 1,300 youth.  While the participating companies are largely skewed towards finance, legal and healthcare industries — established companies like US Bank, Best Buy, Thrivent are known for placing summer interns in IT departments over the years.

These were not fast-food gigs or landscaping labor, but targeted on-the-job training that exposes youth to future career choices and the benefits of pursuing higher education. The program isn’t limited to the Fortune 500. STEP-UP is seeking to add more high-tech firms to its list of options for students.

“There are so many Minneapolis youth that are interested in technology,” says program director Tammy Dickinson. “STEP-UP internships can have an incredible impact on them,” she adds, noting 98% of past participants cite their involvement as a valuable learning experience.

Youth candidates start with a competitive application, screening and skills training process to gain placement eligibility.  Once formal interviews are conducted, the intern starts in mid-June,and  a typical internship lasts 6-8 weeks. The part time schedule is customized to the employers needs and students are compensated an average of $8/hour according to STEP-UP’s historical data.  In addition to supporting local teens, 96% of participating companies have said that the program was a rewarding business success for them.

“We participate in STEP-UP because we feel it is important to expose the real world of work to young people in our community,” said Lisa Helminiak, principal and digital strategist at Azul 7, a branding and digital design agency in Minneapolis. “Though youth have so much more information at their fingertips through traditional and interactive channels, many often don’t know what career options are open to them beyond being a doctor, lawyer, sports star or entertainer.”

“For as little as $1,000, companies can get a little extra help over the summer while introducing a new person to the high-tech world. And our staff is there to support both sides every step of the way,” says Dickinson.

Our tech community won’t grow by dumb luck. We need to expose our next generation to the great opportunities we offer, and nurture their growth.

For more information on STEP-UP (for profit businesses),  contact Jeremiah Brown at AchieveMpls, at (612) 455-1562.  New employers are welcomed to sign up through the end of May.