InternX Bridges Career Opportunity Gap Faced by Black Students


How InternX is Working for Minority Students Seeking High-Profile Paid Internships

Internships are a necessary part of career advancement, and Robert F. Smith personally knows the value an internship adds to career trajectory. 

Decades before Smith founded Vista Equity Partners, he interned at Bell Labs, an experience which expanded his career expectations. He went on to earn a B.S. in Chemical Engineering at Cornell University and graduate with honors from Columbia University with an MBA.

“The opportunity you access should be determined by the fierceness of your intellect, the courage in your creativity and the grit that allows you to overcome expectations that weren’t set high enough,” Smith told the 2019 Morehouse College graduating class, during his commencement address.  

Smith, freeing the class from student debt, set them on course to “seize the American dream” and continue to achieve the highest benchmarks of success by taking their places as future chief executives and board members.

Students who graduate without debt, have the flexibility to make bold career choices that those in debt can’t consider. Internships have a similar effect. 

Paid internships at leading companies are a direct pathway not only to get hired by top employers, but also, to gain vital access to executive mentorships and higher pay. The internX program, launched by Fund II Foundation, is one of many ways Smith’s leadership as founding director and President of the Fund II Foundation shows business leaders the way forward through lifting up underrepresented talent.

Why Internships Are Important

The United States Department of Labor recognizes the importance of internships and created a general how-to guide for employers regarding internship programs. It states that internships are a key factor in job placement after college graduation. Internships often translate into job offers. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), 64.8 percent of interns receive full-time offers from employers.

And no matter how impressive a student’s degree, having a paid internship from a top-tier firm on a resume is often a base-line criteria for employment in the best jobs. In fact, the DOL notes that internships are “a risk-free pipeline to meet the recruitment needs of the business, organization, or agency.”

While ethnically underrepresented students have made progress in gaining college degrees and unpaid internships, they still do not have access that equals that of their white peers.  According to the 2019 Student Survey Report by the NACE Black and minority students are underrepresented in paid internships. 

Paid Internships Are a Pathway to Higher Paid Jobs

Not all internships are equal, however. There are internships, and then there are paid internships. Both have value, but few students want to work for free and fewer still can afford to do so. Beyond having the privilege to be able to work for free, there is the lifetime earning potential to which a paid internship can provide access for minority students. Paid internship opportunities lead to higher paying jobs, according to the NACE.

A well-paid internship at a quality business institution or STEM industry company can set a student up for a successful life, with more opportunities and fewer stresses. This means earning a wage out of college that can support a family and pay down debts. Right now, according to Georgetown University Researchers, white college graduates are still out-earning Black and other ethnic minority college graduates.

The researchers found that the median earnings in 2016 for so-called “good jobs” for white workers post graduation with a bachelor’s degree were $75,000 compared to $65,000 for Black and ethnically underrepresented workers. A solution offered by the lead researcher was to find ways for Black students to gain relevant work experience and training before graduating. 

To level the playing field and make sure minority students who excel in school can secure quality careers in the 21st Century workplace, the Fund II Foundation established the internX program.

InternX matches students with top business and STEM companies for placement in well-paid internships. This program also creates pathways for employers to connect with diverse students and put them in line for potential employment. 

When and How to Look for an Internship

Internships are available during the fall, spring and summer semesters. To get a coveted paid summer internship, students must sometimes apply six to nine months in advance.

Having an internship plan is the first step to landing a good placement. Students frequently have access to free career development resources on campus. Staff are there to guide students through the application process. Likewise, a campus career counselor can help you decide which internships are best for you. 

Some students plan to apply for internships years in advance. But even if it’s close to an application deadline, it’s not too late. Students should prepare materials as early as possible, and avoid the errors that can come with last-minute scrambling. Materials like a professional resume, recommendations, and even complex essay questions may be required and take time to request and compile.  

TIP: Students should ask a professor or mentor for their thoughts on which internship programs they attended or would steer students to now. It can spark their thoughts on a student’s strengths and future career path. Then it’s easier to follow up with a request for a reference letter should they need one.

Another resource for internships, specifically for students from ethnically underrepresented groups, is Fund II Foundation’s internX program, which is available for eligible college sophomores. The guided application process is free. Read more here.

Virtual Internship Opportunities

While businesses adapt to changes necessitated by COVID-19, internships continue apace.

Initially there was a sharp internship decline in spring 2020 as companies delayed programs and revoked offers, but as they gained confidence in remote work products, internships rebounded. The NACE notes that internship rates are in a better place now than following the 2008 recession.

Placements might be slightly harder to come by, but opportunities are out there. Students should check out the remote opportunities organized by their schools. The University of California, Davis, is encouraging its students to expand their work experience world-wide. One of their global opportunities are remote tech positions organized by Silicon Valley firms that connect students to younger learners in Kenya, Rwanda and Malawi. Students should check out the remote opportunities organized by their schools.