An Enterprising Partnership

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By Steven J. Smith

Enterprise Holdings, parent company of the famed vehicle rental company, began a mutually beneficial relationship in 2007 with the University of South Florida, Sarasota-Manatee that today greatly benefits both organizations.

The college receives donations for internship and confidence building programs and Enterprise welcomes well-trained and thoughtfully mentored employees into its company, according to USFSM Director of Student Success Lauren Kurnov.

“Enterprise has actually been a supporter and partner across the entire USF system since 1997,” Kurnov said. “Philanthropic support received from Enterprise Holdings exceeds $75,000 system-wide, about one third of which is designated for student programs at USF Sarasota-Manatee. Over the years, seven USFSM students have gained employment with Enterprise. They have progressed from management trainee to assistant manager and one is a branch manager. Two students have interned at Enterprise and one of the two interns ended up working there. At present, five USFSM students are working at Enterprise.”

Kayla Siwiec, talent acquisition specialist for Enterprise Holdings, said the company took a recruiting interest in USFSM in 2011, when the college began its four-year bachelor programs.

“That’s when we began recruiting for our management trainee internships and also our management trainee position once they’ve graduated,” she said. “With a four year degree we can hire them full time into that position, which works out well for everyone.”

Siwiec added her company has donated over $1 million to the Southwest Florida community to about 60 different organizations. In its internship program with USFSM, the company hires students in their junior year as they’re working toward their bachelor’s degree in any major.

“It doesn’t have to be a business track,” she said. “We’ve hired students studying criminology, arts and sciences, any bachelor program. The internship program is paid and it teaches them how to run a successful business by being part of a team that actually runs one. They get real world skills that give them a head start on their future.”

Siwiec added interns work in an Enterprise branch in the area or at an airport, learning skills in marketing, problem solving, inventory control, customer services and sales.

“Ultimately this experience provides the foundation for us to offer interns a full time career when they graduate,” she said. “That’s our goal.”

Kurnov maintained the internship program has grown significantly over the years requiring the services of an internship coordinator, who places students into the program.

“Some of our students complete internships as part of the degree requirements for their academic program,” she said. “Other students can pursue an internship for elective credit, where it’s not necessarily required for their degree. Additional students pursue the internship part time as a way of building their skills and getting that on their resume. The internship also serves as a mentoring program that gives students proper interview skills, for example, which enables them to be more successful. Representatives from the company actually participate in mock interviews with the kids to give them that experience.”

Kurnov was quick to add Enterprise helps students beyond grooming them for its own entry-level positions.

“Much of what their financial support has meant for us has been in funding many of our different career services programs that help prepare our students to be internship-ready,” she said. “One such program is GameOn Nation, a communications firm that leads confidence building workshops for the students, which has helped them feel more comfortable about themselves. That in turn aids them in their approach to a networking event or a career fair.”

Kurnov added Enterprise also sponsored a international business etiquette program called “Kiss, Bow or Shake Hands,” which helps students have a better understanding of different international business customs and how to navigate opportunities from that knowledge.

“Enterprise has also helped us with the Dress For Success program, that helps students model appropriate business wear,” she said. “That really gave them a better understanding of what professional dress looks like and what they should be wearing to interviews.”

Kurnov added this year Enterprise is sponsoring a new initiative with the college called Career Connections.

“We have brought students from our campus to Manatee and Sarasota County government offices so they can learn about all of the new jobs being offered by those organizations,” she said. “Both county governments are expecting massive vacancies due to retirements over the next few years. So we bused students out to their offices to learn about opportunities in such areas as human resources, IT and community neighborhood services, for example.”

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