GVSU students, local employers set to start talent-creation program

The initial group of Grand Valley State University students and West Michigan employers is ready to embark on an innovative work-and-learning partnership that offers a customized learning experience while fulfilling immediate and longer-term talent demands.

They are part of the Laker Accelerated Talent Link, a program launched in February that pairs Grand Valley students with companies that will provide an enhanced internship experience for students. Five companies have joined the partnership: Acrisure, Amway, Cascade Engineering, Corewell Health and Michigan Software Labs. GVSU is also an employer partner.

Since the launch, GVSU and employers have worked to match students with their internships. The initial cohort was celebrated at a kickoff event Oct. 30 at the DeVos Center for Interprofessional Health.

"We want to thank the five employer partners who co-created with us this game-changing program that will create more GVSU graduates who are ready to go for business and industries in critical talent shortage areas in our community," said GVSU President Philomena V. Mantella.

As a university where nearly 80 percent of alumni stay in Michigan, GVSU is in a prime position to help boost the ranks of well-prepared employees who will help propel the state forward, Mantella noted.

A person standing a podium smiles while gesturing with their hands. The screen behind them contains statistics saying 22,000+ students and 90% of graduates employed or in further education.
President Philomena V. Mantella offers remarks during a kickoff celebration of the Laker Accelerated Talent Link. Other speakers included students, employers and Jennifer Drake, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Talent Link students are primarily from CLAS.
Image credit - Amanda Pitts

The urgency to begin helping employers and the students of today was a central theme in remarks during the kickoff celebration, which included employer and student speakers who conveyed their optimism about how the Talent Link will benefit them.

And Mantella promised the acceleration of the Talent Link would continue. The inaugural cohort has 21 students; the goal for next year's is 100 students with an expanded group of employers, she told kickoff celebration attendees.

Enhancements embedded into the Talent Link program provide innovative opportunities for student learning as well as a pathway for a job offer from the partner employer, helping to create a talent pipeline. Those enhancements include: earning a certificate in an area related to business or technology on top of the degree; scholarship support from the partner employer and, if the program is completed, a good-faith job offer from the employer upon graduation.

Integrating businesses as partners in education is key to addressing the needs of the students and employers of today and the future, Mantella said.

“We are thrilled to partner with Grand Valley to create opportunities for young professionals to gain valuable experiences in the Fintech and financial services sector. As Acrisure continues to grow, filling open roles will continue to be of critical importance to our success,” said Acrisure Co-Founder, Chairman and CEO Greg Williams. “This innovative program creates a pipeline of candidates while also introducing young talent to the exciting career opportunities that Acrisure offers.”

“Amway remains committed to attracting and retaining the best and brightest talent. Nearly 64 years ago, the company started with two employees and that number has grown into more than 14,000 individuals around the world who are inspired to help our health and wellness entrepreneurs and their customers live better, healthier lives,” said Amway Vice President of Human Resources Mike Horrigan. “Partnering with GVSU provides us with a unique opportunity to develop a pipeline of talent that will be critical to our long-term success starting right here in West Michigan.”

A person smiles and gestures while speaking from a podium.
Four people stand in a group talking.
Students Sam Frondoso, at the podium, and Nicole DeVries, second from right, both spoke during the celebration about their enthusiasm for the Talent Link program. (Photos by Amanda Pitts)

Students will begin their internships in January. This semester, they are preparing for their internships by meeting regularly as a group. Here are some reflections from a few of the Talent Link students.

Nicole DeVries, statistics major, working with Acrisure and pursuing an applied data analytics certificate:

"Connecting with local companies has allowed me to make the most out of the degree I have been pursuing and sparked the confidence to use my talents in an impactful way. Getting plugged into the Laker Accelerated Talent Link Program has given me the chance to discover my passions and make an impact on something bigger than myself. Acrisure has given me the chance as a student to find direction in starting my career, in addition to providing a fantastic culture and strong presence in the West Michigan and global workforce to start my post-grad journey."

Sam Frondoso, integrative studies major in the LEADS accelerated degree program, working with Corewell Health and pursuing a project management certificate:

 “There is nothing more rewarding than making an impact in someone else's life. The talent link program provides me a unique opportunity to grow, gain valuable work experience with companies like Corewell, and remain an engaged learner and community member.”

Ethan Wagner, majoring in writing and psychology, working with Amway and pursuing a project management certificate:

"This program is helping me find a more clearly defined career path. I like that Amway is environmentally conscious and that diversity is important to them, and it's one of the premier employers in West Michigan. And it's great to earn the certificate and to have the knowledge from the certificate that coincides with the internship."


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