Video: How the pandemic changed internships

Internships matter. They provide hands on experience, but they also bring connections and lead to permanent jobs.

One study from the National Association of Colleges and Employers showed over 70% of employers offer their interns full-time jobs. Some 56% of interns get a full-time job from their internship placement. 

But the COVID-19 pandemic had dramatic effects on the internship industry.

Evidence shows 40% of students reported loss of a job, internship, or job offer in the pandemic. Some 30% of junior & senior college students had their internships canceled, and only 30% of employers continued with in-person internships as planned.

LITE Memphis helps high school and college students land paid internships. Beginning in March 2020, their team had to get creative and find alternative, virtual placements for their students.

LITE Memphis' mission is to build wealth in Black and Latinx communities by providing training, internship placements, funding, and other resources at no cost. The goal is to help them become their own bosses or secure high-wage jobs as business leaders. 

Their students have interned for Memphis Filmworks, Memphis Redbirds, Cynthia Daniels & Co., Utopian Animal Hospital, The Chiro Place, AgLaunch, KJ Management, Purist cancer research lab, Middle Tennessee Marketing, the Detroit College Access Network, and others. 

Watch this short video for more on LITE Memphis' work and the changing landscape of internships in the pandemic.  

Interning in the Pandemic: How COVID-19 Changed Internships from High Ground News on Vimeo.

Why focus on Black and Latinx students? Because study after study conclusively shows that they are significantly less likely than their white peers to own their own businesses as adults and are also less likely to get paid internshipswork in the highest-paying fields, and move into upper management when working for someone else.

One of the biggest issues is access to resources— people, funding, education, and credit are some of the big ones. White students typically have more capital, credit, and connections within their networks of family and friends to help support them during an unpaid internship or connect them to a paid opportunity. Those same family and friends are more likely to then have the resources to lean on when launching a business. 

LITE Memphis wants to help close some of those gaps for Black and Latinx students. 

"The biggest challenge with Black and Brown students is that, a lot of times, internships aren't paid," LITE Memphis Executive Director Lakethia Glenn told High Ground in a June 2021 article. "And because of their family's inability to support that, they can't take unpaid internships."

All of LITE Memphis' internships are paid by the employer, LITE, or both.
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Read more articles by Cole Bradley.

Cole Bradley is a native Memphian and graduate of the University of Memphis. Cole's worked locally as a researcher and community engagement strategist and began contributing to High Ground in Jan 2017.