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ODU Partners with Hampton Roads Workforce Council to Lead 757 Regional Internship Collaborative

By Amber Kennedy

Old Dominion University and the Hampton Roads Workforce Council (HRWC) will lead the 757 Regional Internship Collaborative, a new effort to strengthen the talent pipeline through work-based learning opportunities.

The 757 Regional Internship Collaborative brings together representatives from K-12 school districts, higher education institutions, businesses, industry, economic development and regional leadership organizations. The collaborative is funded through a $250,000 grant from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) from its Innovative Internship Fund and Program.

Participants will develop strategies to better prepare students for work-based learning while simultaneously increasing access to those opportunities. The collaborative will create an evidence-based regional internship and experiential learning consortium serving all stakeholders in the talent pipeline.

"Hampton Roads has incredible assets, from its educational institutions to its wide array of employers, but we are losing too many graduates to other regions and other states," said ODU President Brian O. Hemphill, Ph.D. "We are proud to bring all the stakeholders to the table to make sure the region's graduates are well prepared to fill the jobs we have right here."

More than 30 partnering organizations have committed to participate in the collaborative. Over the next two years, partners will conduct focus groups and surveys to identify regional best practices, along with the barriers preventing employers from offering work-based learning.

The collaborative will create and implement a plan to improve experiential learning in Hampton Roads, including marketing the existence of internships for freshmen and sophomores. In addition, the collaborative will host an annual summit to increase understanding about work-based learning opportunities.

The project will be led by an executive team that will oversee the hiring of a project director to guide the collaborative. The executive team includes ODU representatives Don Stansberry, vice president for Student Engagement and Enrollment Services; Nancy Grden, associate vice president of the Institute for Innovation & Entrepreneurship; and Brian Payne, vice provost for Academic Affairs. They'll work alongside HRWC representatives Shawn Avery, president and CEO, and Whitney Lester, senior director of talent development.

The ODU Social Science Research Center will lead 10 focus group interviews and a business survey to provide the advisory board and subcommittees with information about the experiences of the region's students, educators and businesses with work-based learning.

"At ODU, we have committed to guarantee every student experience that prepares them for their future careers," Payne said. "We look forward to expanding this effort with partners across the region to help our business community find the qualified employees they need and ensure our students find bright futures in Hampton Roads."

The members of the collaborative include:

  • K-12 career and technical education representatives from Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Chesapeake, Hampton, Newport News, Williamsburg, Isle of Wight, Southampton County and New Horizons.
  • Higher education representatives from Old Dominion University, Norfolk State University, Virginia Wesleyan College, Regent University, Christopher Newport University, The College of William & Mary, Tidewater Community College, Paul D. Camp Community College, Eastern Shore Community College, ECPI and the Virginia Tidewater Consortium for Higher Education.
  • Business and community partner representatives from the cities of Virginia Beach, Chesapeake and Hampton; 757 Collab; Coastal Virginia Center for Cyber Innovation (CoVA CCI); Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce; Hampton Roads Alliance; Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Coastal Virginia; Hampton Roads Workforce Council; Reinvent HR; Norfolk Innovation Corridor; Hampton Roads Maritime Collaborative for Growth & Innovation; Black BRAND; and SimIS Inc.
  • Additional invited partners include Hampton University and Virginia Peninsula Community College.

This initiative builds on the foundation of past collaborations, including the Virginia Tidewater Consortium for Higher Education; CoVA CCI; HRWC's NextGen Pathways, Campus 757 and school programs; and workforce-driven partnerships between institutions and employers, such as the recently announced traineeship program for students at ODU, Norfolk State and Hampton University to conduct research at Jefferson Lab.

"Across Hampton Roads, our educators and employers have made great strides to expand work-based learning within their own institutions and organizations. Integrating these efforts into a collaborative framework will significantly benefit all," Lester said. "These efforts will result in a better-trained workforce and, in turn, strengthen the economy of the region and the commonwealth."

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