Since 2014, America On Tech (AOT) has had the distinct pleasure of bringing tuition free technology courses to the young people of New York and Los Angeles. These courses provide critical and in-demand technology skills and professional development sessions to 16-24 year old students of color, who are from low to moderate income communities. Not only do our students obtain high quality technology training, they also have opportunities to apply for our paid summer internship program, jobs in our employer partner network and receive exclusive opportunities as part of our alumni engagement portfolio. AOT students are amazing, talented and represent the future of innovation in our country and we cannot express how thankful we are to work with them everyday.
COVID-19 has had a disproportionate effect on our students and the communities they represent. Particularly in New York City and Los Angeles, the number of COVID-19 cases has been massive in comparison to other cities. Many of our students and their families have experienced high levels of economic stress during this time due to reduced hours and lost wages. Further, rates of infection are higher for low income communities, where there are a higher percentage of people of color: our students' communities.
To add to the challenges our students already face due to racial, gender and economic disparities, technology internships for summer 2020 are being canceled by many companies at a rapid rate. This leaves our trained, young people with newly minted skills and nowhere to exercise them during a time where they could be generating income to sustain themselves, their families and, sometimes, their larger community of support.
The cancellation of internship programs should not be the answer to a company’s COVID-19 plans. It should be an opportunity for companies to think innovatively about the future of talent and work. AOT stands with 21 organizations in our “Open Letter to Employers on Summer 2020 Internship Commitments Amidst the Covid-19 Crisis”. There are a number of recommendations we're making to companies and organizations who are canceling internships this summer.
Internships across the board are a critical component in the development of a student’s career trajectory. They not only gain important skills that prepare them for the workforce, but also help them gain an insight into what company culture looks like, helps them exercise their soft skills, enables them to build social capital and helps put money in their pockets.
Internships are not only beneficial to students. They are also beneficial to employers. Internships help companies cultivate their talent pipelines and fulfill their human resources goals. Internships also allow companies to build brand equity among earlier talent pools and give them the chance to become employers of choice. Internships help further a company’s corporate citizenship and diversity, equity and inclusion agendas and if structured correctly, give early employees an opportunity to gain managerial skills by managing interns on their projects.
We have curated a list of three considerations for companies who have canceled their internship programs or are on the verge of doing so:
We want to acknowledge that we are all feeling the effects of a very unanticipated global pandemic and the amount of disruption we have all faced in the last couple of weeks has shifted each of us into a new normal. However, as an organization working to create a diversified technology talent pipeline, we would be remiss if we did not express our concerns about how canceling internship programs in summer 2020 leaves our young people behind when there are already significant barriers to employment and equitable access to meaningful work experiences.
We’re still recruiting 2020 summer internship partners at AOT until May 15, 2020. Student wages for companies in our program might have the opportunity to be subsidized.
You can learn more about our program here. You can also contact Kylie Repasy (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Deeksha Sharma (email@example.com) for more information. To learn more about our open letter to employers, contact Ruthe Farmer (firstname.lastname@example.org).