In designing the Economic Prosperity Initiative (EPI), USAID recognized that to enhance competitiveness at all levels in the Georgian economy, the country must improve the degree to which universities and industry collaborate. USAID recognized internships as a simple, easy form of collaboration and included in the EPI contract the requirement for periodic reporting on the number of internships utilized by the project. EPI took the larger view that it would be beneficial to support a more comprehensive understanding of and implementation approach to the creation and expansion of successful internship programs in Georgia beyond those few interns that EPI might utilize.
On 25th May 2011, an article appeared in The Financial entitled “Internships Wanted” that detailed the difficulties that Georgian universities were having in placing their students in meaningful internships. In response to that article, and as part of the on-going development of its more comprehensive Business4Business business development services program in Georgia, EPI launched a series of brainstorming sessions to more fully understand the expectations, challenges, and potential solutions related to internships. The brainstorming targeted three internship stakeholder groups and several sub-groups as follows:
- Management representatives from Georgian universities
- Students from Georgian universities
- Internship Providers
- Private Firms
- Government Agencies
The methodology EPI employed is one that has been adapted to a wide range of business brainstorming worldwide. It was employed in this instance for three reasons:
- To use the methodology to better understand internship issues in Georgia;
- To explore its workability in Georgia; and
- To train EPI staff on the structured facilitation approached facilitation methods.
The brainstorming sessions provided participant views on the expectations and challenges related to internships, and revealed much about current status, concepts, and perceptions of current internship practices in Georgia.