MANCHESTER — New Hampshire’s workforce has a median age of 41, the third oldest of the 50 states, and that aging population is threatening the state’s future economic stability, business and higher education leaders agree.
Compounding the problem is the continuing exodus of young people to other states and the declining population, creating concern about who will be here to be hired in 10 to 20 years.
Companies like Fidelity in Merrimack, Hypertherm in Lebanon and Dyn in the Millyard might have to relocate, even though they don’t want to, said Gray Chynoweth, chief operating officer of Dyn, an Internet company which hosted about 100 business and academic leaders for a seminar on internships.
“If we don’t take action, we’re going to blow it,” he said.
Focusing on internships is a way for businesses to find good employees and develop a workforce, while allowing colleges and some high schools to provide the education that’s needed to fill jobs across the state.
StayWorkPlay New Hampshire, a nonprofit organization that promotes the state to young workers and recent college graduates, sponsored the seminar, which focused on how to improve internship quality and placement.
Internships are an important first step to employment for young people and to creating the talent pipeline New Hampshire businesses need, said Kate Luczko of StayWorkPlay.
Called the “Talent and Internship Summit,” the seminar included two panels of business and education leaders.
Steve Reno, former chancellor of the University System of New Hampshire and the current executive director of Leadership New Hampshire, moderated a panel discussion that focused on internship programs and retaining interns as employees.
Kathy Taylor, director of career and academic advising at Colby-Sawyer College, said her school requires students to complete an internship, which results in 60 percent of them receiving job offers.
Andrea Kokolis, vice president of human resources for Newforma, said internships work “but only if you work to make them work.” She said what is needed is structure; someone within the company to answer questions — sometimes the same one five different times, patience and a starting and ending point.
C.J. Destramp, a Southern New Hampshire University student who was hired by Dyn after interning for the company, said it would be helpful if colleges offered courses in business software such as Sales Force, a widely used program he learned at Dyn.
Chynoweth moderated a panel that focused on the value of internships.
Barbara Couch, vice president for corporate social responsibility at Hypertherm, a Lebanon manufacturer of high temperature metal cutting equipment, talked about how her daughter interned 16 years ago at J.Crew in Manhattan. The internship was unpaid, she said, but her daughter was able to complete it with her parents’ financial support.
Today, she said, her daughter still is with J.Crew. CEO and Chairman Millard Drexler makes it a point to meet each intern. Interns are now paid, she said.
Couch said it is inequitable to have unpaid internships because many students are financially unable to work for free. Internships offered at Hypertherm are paid, she said.
Chynoweth said Dyn did a study about six years ago to find out why students were leaving the state. The main reason is they couldn’t find a job. Yet, he said, businesses complain they have jobs but can’t find the people to fill them.
Joe Murray, vice president of public affairs for Fidelity Investments, said the company employs 5,400 in Merrimack and 46,000 companywide. Of the 5,400 jobs in Merrimack, 1,500 are information technology jobs.
Finding employees to fill those technology jobs is a challenge not only in New Hampshire but everywhere, he said.
This summer, he said, Fidelity will have 112 paid interns, 70 in technology and a total of 777 interns companywide.