When Jonathan Wright, 20, of Cumberland, used the bridge.jobs website to find an internship in videography, his future employer already had him in her sights.
Gail Ahlers is CEO and artistic director of Pawtucket-based Ahlers Designs, which crafts gifts and awards to commemorate milestones. With a small staff and subcontractors, her 25-year-old firm has only used interns over the past three years, Ahlers said, but in 2013 filled seven of nine internships through the bridge.jobs site. Two of those internships involved Wright.
“The most valuable thing I drew from it was the opportunity to work directly with the owner of a small business,” said Wright. “It taught me a lot of communication skills as well as to discipline myself, and to conduct interviews.”
The rewards were mutual, Ahlers said, since she was able to delegate to Wright shooting promotional video that is intended to help rebrand the company.
“Jonathan had more sophisticated video software on his computer than I had,” Ahlers said. “It’s really a passion of his. And our goal was to make the most professional video possible. When you have a company with a unique niche like I do, a word is not as strong as an image, and a video is going to be dynamically exciting, so he really helped clarify our message.”
Despite connections like that one last year, the bridge.jobs site launched at the end of 2012 has so far attracted far more would-be interns than it has employers.
As of January, 2014, about 2,400 students had registered on the bridge.jobs website looking for internships, while only 380 employers had registered, said Charles P. Kelley, executive director of the R.I. Student Loan Authority, which spearheaded development of the site.
“So our goal is to encourage more business organizations to come forward and expand or start internship programs,” Kelley said.
Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee and Kelley were among those on hand at GTECH Corp. in Providence Jan. 9 to kick off a campaign to encourage participation from more employers. A $100,000 grant from the Rhode Island Foundation through the Make It Happen initiative is being used to market the site in print and in social media, specifically targeting smaller employers, Kelley said.