Employer Finds Way to Solve Shortage: Pay Interns from Community College

JOHNSTON, Iowa  —  Iowa employers have long complained they can’t find the workers they need, especially when unemployment is low. Tuesday, Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds toured Shazam Network, a Johnston-based financial service non-profit, to see how a partnership with Des Moines Area Community College helped fill that void.

“Certainly, when you look at the salaries that they’re paying the interns when they’re participating in the process,” Reynolds said following her tour and talk with employees, “These are the kinds of jobs we want to promote and draw in the state of Iowa.”

Shazam says it offers DMACC students $18 per hour as interns. Students can also qualify for other incentives like tuition reimbursement. DMACC graduates hold 59% of the information technology positions there, Shazam reports, and they make an average of $86,000. That is far above the state’s annual average wage of $43,540.

Heath Francois, of Ankeny, considers himself a non-traditional DMACC student. He started a family at a young age and now that his child entered college, he did, too. Computer coding became a new career goal. “I always had a thing for building things. And this is kind of a new age wage of doing things at things at this point,” Francois said, “It’s kind of the future of this country…of the world, in general.”

 

(DMACC student Heath Francois.)

Francois interns at Shazam and plans to graduate from DMACC in May.

DMACC President Rob Denson counts the ongoing partnership between students like Francois and Shazam as a success and a new business plan for the state. “Learning-based working,” Denson calls it, instead of workplace learning.

Shazam considers it a success, too. A half-dozen years ago, it says it could take 6-9 months to fill an IT opening. Now it is only about 3 months.

Reynolds toured Shazam as part of her Future Ready Iowa tour. The administration set a goal of 70 percent of the workforce to have post-high school training by 2025.