LSU Executive Vice President & Provost Stacia Haynie, LSU Interim President Thomas Galligan and Baton Rouge Area Chamber President & CEO Adam Knapp announced a collaboration to retain graduates Sept. 24. 

LSU and Southern University joined forces with the Baton Rouge Area Chamber on an initiative to leverage the job recruitment platform, Handshake.

The two schools and BRAC announced the deal through a press release by all parties on Sept. 24. The joint deal attempts to retain graduates in the region by connecting students to career opportunities through professional internships with small and medium-sized employers.

“This is a historic joint commitment of our region’s traditional four-year institutions to be intentional about connecting students to local internship and job opportunities,” said BRAC president and CEO Adam Knapp at the memorandum of understanding signing. “Now, more than ever, talent drives economic development, and our college students are one of our greatest assets.”

Knapp said this deal will improve the job market for students at both schools.

“This new collaboration will make it easier than ever for businesses to hire college students and graduate into local jobs,” Knapp said. “Every business in the region should create a free Handshake account and explore how easy it is to recruit interns and graduates.”

Both schools invested in Handshake in 2018 and about half of each school’s student populations have active accounts on the platform. There are also a little less than 500 active employer profiles in the region at the time of the press release.

“LSU is proud to provide our talented students with a bridge to successful careers,” said LSU Interim President Thomas Galligan. “We are committed to collaborating with our colleagues in higher education and business on this important initiative.”

Southern president and chancellor Ray L. Benton expressed the same gratitude.

“With this partnership, our students have enhanced access to valuable training and ultimate employment with companies that positively contribute to the economic health of our city and state,” Benton said.

BRAC Senior Vice President of Marketing Kelly Bienn said the joint deal wishes to increase the retention rates of students graduating from regional higher education institutions in the long run.

“Our hope is that tracking and reporting that information year over year will allow us to identify and address gaps or weaknesses that will lead to a virtuous cycle of internships becoming a standard of practice within businesses and a standard expectation among students,”  Bienn said.

Despite the September announcement, the deal had been in the works for some time.

 “There were discussions with BRAC beginning late fall 2019,” Jesse Downs, an employee with LSU’s Olinde Career Center, said. “BRAC then made a pitch to LSU leadership earlier this year in the spring.”

Although COVID-19 delayed the announcement of the partnership, the pandemic hasn’t had a major impact on the deal.

“While some internships may shift to a virtual format, the value and impact of the experience is still worthwhile for students and employers,” Bienn said. “We’re all navigating this new environment together, and it’s critical that those experiential learning opportunities not be jeopardized along the way.”

BRAC will host a workshop at both universities to help employers create Handshake profiles on Oct. 14.

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