Brett Borders decided the Rogue Valley didn't offer enough opportunities for his newly-gained knowledge after graduating from Southern Oregon University last spring with a certificate in interactive marketing and e-commerce.




Instead, he moved to Boulder, Colo., where he works for a Web development company that helps businesses move up in online search results.




"I love Ashland more than anywhere I've ever lived in my life," he said. "I just felt my choices would be limited, especially in Ashland. There's really not that many people wanting to do a lot of business."




Students with stories like Borders' prompted SOU Prof. Charles Jaeger to start the interactive marketing partners program to connect his students with local companies and keep their skills in the Valley.




"All my best graduates seemed to go out of state because they didn't realize there were good jobs here in interactive marketing, but we've got some world class companies here," Jaeger said.




The partners program will be offered starting in the winter in conjunction with the certificate in interactive marketing and e-commerce that began six years ago. Last year, 15 students earned the certificate. This year, enrollment has doubled to 30, and 120 students attended an informational session with four local executives earlier this fall.




The certificate program teaches students how to target a company's best customers and tailor the marketing strategy to keep those individuals happy, Jaeger said. Local companies such as Harry and David, Lithia Motors, Fire Mountain Gems and Musician's Friend will offer those students internships that could lead to employment after graduation. Some will also provide guest speakers and tuition assistance for current employees.




Harry and David already provides an extensive internship program, but the partners program could increase their involvement with students and benefit both sides, said Barbara Hurd, the senior manager of internet business development for Harry and David.




"It is difficult to find people in this area with the skills, education and understanding of e-commerce, and that have experience as well," she said. "They're trying to make these students realize there are opportunities right here in the Valley. It's a growing area in lots of companies."




The budget for internet advertising and Web development at Harry and David has increased every year for the last five years, but the majority of new hires are recruited from outside the Rogue Valley, she said.




Hurd has already spoken with students and made herself available for consulting and informational interviews in hopes of finding skilled SOU grads that know how to develop Web sites and influence search engine results.




"I really appreciate SOU reaching out and looking at the need," she said. "It's a win-win situation for both sides."




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