The COVID-19 pandemic did not slow down the momentum of engineering students seeking internships this summer. A number of students from Gator Engineering at State College of Florida and from the UF Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering will be doing internships and work-study programs with companies and other organizations in the Sarasota-Manatee county area this summer. Some students will be working remotely, just like many full-time employees in local businesses, while others will be starting their experiences later than usual, as the economy begins to reopen.
Gulf Coast Community Foundation is helping make these internships possible through a $40,000 grant given to the UF Innovation Station-Sarasota County (UFIS-SC). The funds will supplement student summer stipends at regionally based internships. The goal of the internship program at UFIS-SC is to encourage more talented young people to explore career opportunities in the region’s tech and engineering sectors. “With its burgeoning tech scene, Sarasota County is positioning itself as a city of choice among recent college graduates, and this funding helps attract students to the area,” said Allen Carlson, Regional Director of UFIS-SC.
Gulf Coast has been working with UF since the university established its first engineering extension station in Sarasota County in 2016. In summer 2019, a $61,500 grant from Gulf Coast provided support to 19 of the 41 engineering interns UFIS-SC brought to the Sarasota County area. The students used the stipends for expenses like food, lodging, and transportation during their assignments, and even to help defray tuition costs in the new school year. Together with the stipend provided by UFIS-SC, the internship program attracted more innovative young men and women to the region, helping strengthen the talent pipeline necessary to vitalize the area’s tech economy.
Trevor Poole, a Sustainability and the Built Environment student at UF, began his college education in the Gator Engineering at State College of Florida program after attending Venice High School in Sarasota County. He described his internship with Sarasota County Government: “My summer 2019 internship was an exceptional opportunity to work for Sarasota County Government. If it weren’t for the stipend to stay in Sarasota County, I would have strongly considered going elsewhere, as I had a few other options available at the time. Because of the stipend, I took the opportunity to intern with Sarasota County Government, and it has paid off in remarkable ways. I’ve made amazing connections within Sarasota County, was able to experience real world planning work, and was able to build up technical and soft skills that I may not have had the opportunity to get anywhere else. I am extremely thankful for the opportunities my internship and the Gulf Coast Community Foundation stipend have provided me.”
UF Civil Engineering student Robert Hallaren, from Riverview High School, Sarasota, has benefited from the Gulf Coast stipend for the past two years. He said, “In summer of 2018, I received the stipend for the first time; and it influenced my decision to return to Sarasota and intern at CDM Smith in 2019. I hope to be granted a stipend for a Sarasota-based internship again for summer 2020. I have had an incredible time with the engineering and construction professionals at CDM Smith since my 2019 internship and intend on working there full time after I graduate.”
Hallaren added, “This stipend went a long way toward my transportation and food costs during the summer. Without the stipend, I do not know if I would have even returned home during the summer of 2018, and now I am very thankful I did! I also believe that this stipend is a great investment for engineering companies in the Sarasota County region. I know many fellow engineering students who are confined to working or interning in their hometowns due to financial constraints. This stipend would give many bright, incredible Gator Engineering students the opportunity to see all that the Sarasota region has to offer.”
The additional grant of $40,000 for 2020 will help local students from the Gator Engineering at State College of Florida program recognize the many existing opportunities in their own backyard. It will also bring some out-of-area UF students to the region for the first time, acquainting even more talented future professionals with what West Central Florida has to offer in terms of career growth, sea-side ambiance and work-life balance.
In addition to the stipends, Gulf Coast has helped to fund an Engineering Innovation minor at UF that comes with tuition forgiveness for students who relocate to the Gulf Coast region to work after they graduate. Another UF Civil Engineering student, Kyle Koughan, a graduate of St. Stephens Episcopal School, Bradenton, highlighted his experience with the program: “The Gulf Coast stipend was also the reason I learned of and completed the Engineering Innovation Minor at UF. Not only does it help me stand out amongst job candidates, the classes I’ve taken have helped me become a much more-well-rounded engineer. I’ve learned cutting edge techniques for product development/innovation, developed business/entrepreneurial skills, and gained valuable presentation experience.”
“Strong partnerships such as this one between the community and the state’s premier R-1 research university highlight what the people of the state of Florida can accomplish in establishing a solid base for innovation and technology that will transform the future of our society,” said Carlson.
“The Innovation Station has become a key player in the effort to shift our region’s economic base away from traditional service-based sectors and toward creative and innovative industries,” said Mark Pritchett, President/CEO of Gulf Coast Community Foundation. “By investing in these internships, we can provide more opportunities for home-grown students to build successful careers here and shine the spotlight on our region’s employers for UF talent from elsewhere.”
About Gulf Coast Community Foundation
For 25 years, together with its donors, Gulf Coast Community Foundation has transformed its region through bold and proactive philanthropy. Gulf Coast is a public charity that was created in 1995 through the sale of the Venice Hospital. Since then, it has become the philanthropic home of nearly 1,000 families, individuals, organizations, and businesses that have established charitable funds there, and has invested over $370 million in grants in the areas of health and human services, civic and economic development, education, arts and culture, and the environment. Learn more at GulfCoastCF.org.