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March 29, 2016
Retaining Boston’s Grads Begins When They’re Still Students

Internationally recognized as a higher education metropolis, Boston claims 34 percent of Massachusetts’ total college enrollment, thanks to 35 colleges and universities housing some 152K students.

Here’s the catch: despite our global status as a sort of academic mecca, we’re churning graduates nearly just as quickly as we’re accepting new students. In fact, recent reports note Boston’s graduate retention rate is higher than 50 percent.

Could this figure be worse? Certainly. But it could also be a lot better.

The internship-retention connection

Silicon Valley has long been recognized for its innovation. Entrepreneurs and college grads alike flock there. Some of the biggest businesses were born or play there. And for us on the East Coast, keeping up has been nearly impossible - until recently, that is.

In January, Bloomberg announced Massachusetts as the most innovative state in the nation. We beat California by just a fraction of a point, but Bloomberg’s proclamation could mean we’re not only gaining the edge we need to attract and retain top tech talent, but our own college graduates, too.

A shiny new title from Bloomberg isn’t a silver bullet, though. And there’s no denying that Boston indeed has a retention problem. But here’s where things get tricky: as startups, we’re notoriously strapped for time, money, you name it. So when it comes to recruiting, we’ve got less recruitment bandwidth and resources than larger, more established organizations. Ultimately, it’s often the latter that scoop up college students for internships and - eventually - full time gigs.

“I think startups want interns, but they don’t make the time to go out and find the intern until they needed them yesterday,” said Sarah Sherburne, TechGen founder and New England Capital Venture Association (NEVCA) program manager.

That’s why NEVCA has launched its rebranded TechGen platform. The program and platform - which were first launched last year but have since undergone a major facelift - are free resources that connect students with innovative tech companies in Massachusetts.

TechGen’s primary focus is to help startups find and hire talented student interns (and vice versa). In its first two weeks, the platform engaged nearly 700 students - a figure it aims to more than quadruple in the coming weeks - and helped facilitate nearly 900 applications.

Here’s the downside: less than 100 organizations are leveraging the free platform. Sherburne says the goal is to engage over 200 companies, but acknowledges the first challenge to overcome is building up the resource’s brand awareness.

“It’s a branding exercise for us,” Sherburne says. “We’re making sure they [companies] know we exist. We’re working with community influencers and an advisor group, leveraging the NEVCA board, and partnering with our influencer list of 80 movers and shakers to help spread the word.

“Its really a grassroots campaign. We’re working to amplify the noise around TechGen,” she added.
 

Want to learn more about TechGen - including how you can leverage it to find talented interns for your startup? Visit thetechgen.org.
 


Kaite Rosa is Director of Content & Marketing at VentureFizz. Follow her on Twitter: @KaiteRosa

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