LPL Financial (LPLA), the largest independent broker-dealer in the U.S., announced Monday a college internship program, developed in partnership with Private Advisor Group, one of the largest firms on its hybrid RIA platform.

This is a pilot program that LPL may consider expanding to other advisor offices, says LPL spokesman Peter Gilchrist, and it will begin with about 20 undergraduate students at Villanova University in Pennsylvania.

Abby Salameh at Private Advisor Group told ThinkAdvisor her firm hopes to work with at least 100 interns during 2016 and get the program up and running as soon as winter break though that start time may be too ambitious.

She said business school students studying finance or economics would likely be best suited for the program.

“The program is designed to provide students with the skills necessary to quickly become a valuable asset for the financial advisor offices … looking to further embrace LPL’s digital offering and increase office efficiency,” said Jen Gloss, senior vice president of client experience and training at Private Advisor Group.

Students in the program will complete an online training program to become certified in the use of LPL’s technology for financial advisors to help advisors transition to a digital office, according to an LPL press release.

The broader goal is to develop the next generation of financial advisors, providing work experience in financial services, including financial planning, and an understanding of LPL’s advisor tools and resources, the statement said.

The financial advisory industry has been suffering from a decline of advisors despite the growing need for advisory services as baby boomers retire, affecting LPL as well as other firms.  As of the end of the third quarter, the number of financial advisors affiliated with LPL fell to 14,073, down from 14,130 in the second quarter and 14,098 in the first quarter.

With its internship program, LPL joins the ranks of other financial firms sponsoring internship programs in order to attract more college graduates to the financial advisory industry, including Edward Jones, which recently announced that it was expanding its program to 12 universities, up from three schools at its start in the spring.

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