WATERVILLE — For college students, internships are now more critical than ever before, according to Mike Duguay, executive director of the Harold Alfond Institute for Business Innovation at Thomas College.

To ensure greater access to those opportunities, roughly 20 percent of a multimillion dollar grant the college received in May will go toward providing paid internships at small- to medium-sized businesses for students.

“We’re creating not just an internship program per se, but also a talent pipeline for the central Maine workforce,” Duguay said.

On May 10, the Harold Alfond Foundation announced a $5.3 million grant to create a business institute at Thomas College that will tackle a number of initiatives, including professional development training and a paid internship program.

The program hopes to provide 50 paid internships each year. While it’s still in its infancy, it has already helped some students and smaller organizations, such as Waterville Creates!

Since 2012, the college has nearly doubled the number of students participating in internships, both paid and unpaid, from 70 to 138, according to data from Mikaela Ziobro, director of strategic initiatives. The school hopes to get 150 students participating in internships in 2017.

Duguay said the hope is to get students involved with internships earlier in their academic careers.

Madeline St. Amour can be contacted at 861-9239 or at:

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