Program works to keep graduates in Oklahoma
Posted by: Zeke Campfield in In the News
Coordinators of a program that aims to keep Oklahoma college graduates working in the state are reporting success.
Greater Grads, a program of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce, has proved to be an effective way of fighting so-called brain drain in the state, said Joyce Burch, manager of graduate outreach and internships for the chamber.
The program holds an annual career fair that invites exclusively Oklahoma City employers and hosts a website that connects potential interns with employers seeking help and vice versa.
Greater Grads also hosts a series of weekly luncheons for the interns to acquaint them with the city's business and cultural centers and introduce them to its political and sport scene, Burch said.
Last year, 282 interns from 21 states and representing 76 different companies participated in Intern OKC. Since the program began in 2006, nearly 1,500 students have gone through the program.
Another 100 or so students are introduced each year to 1,000 Oklahoma businesses at the career fairs, Burch said.
"We try to talk to them about 'these are different places that are maybe a little off the beaten path,' and we'll talk about cultural activities and just try to get them a little more involved in what's going on," she said. "Another reason we do it is for them to make connections with their peers because that is really a big part of them deciding to stay in the city."
Sixty-seven percent of last year's internship program participants indicated before the Intern OKC lunches that they would like to live and work in Oklahoma City post-graduation, Burch said. By the end of the program, that shot up to 88 percent.
Mary Hestilow, who will graduate from the business college at University of Oklahoma in May, said Greater Grads was responsible for her decision to pursue a career in Oklahoma City.
The 24-year-old former Oklahoma resident moved to San Antonio with her family after graduating high school, but transferred to Norman after two years of college in Texas.
Hestilow said she never intended to make Oklahoma her permanent home. But after completing two internships and accepting a fellowship at a downtown nonprofit, she said she is attracted to the "feeling that this city is progressing."
"I have a lot of interest in urban renewal, so seeing the steps this city was taking to improve its urban core and the central business district was really cool for me," she said. "I liked the size of the city and I liked the feeling that we're going some place here."
The 2012 Intern OKC program will kick off June 13. Topics of the luncheons will include the local political scene, a seminar on 'pursuing your passion' and the city's cost of living and economic climate.
Among special guests this year: Former Oklahoma City Mayor Kirk Humphries, who will debate Pat Hall, a former executive director of the state's Democratic Party; and Tulsa businessman David Box, co-owner of the WNBA team Tulsa Shock, who will talk about developing his own business.