April 2023
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TD Magazine

Internship Program Opens Opportunities to Diverse Candidates

Friday, March 31, 2023

One organization is working to ensure Black students can secure internships.

Internships can play a critical role in individuals' future employment. According to career website Zippia.com, former interns are 15 percent less likely to be unemployed in their first years following graduation and earn 6 percent more than those who haven't interned. Yet, in its 2019 Student Survey, the National Association of Colleges and Employers found statistically significant disproportionalities for student internships that particularly affected Black students. To help put Black students in positions to develop more robust career opportunities, the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) last year launched an internship program for students at historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs).


In its survey, the National Association of Colleges and Employers found that Black students accounted for 6.6 percent of graduating seniors but only 6 percent of paid internships, which is statistically significant. Black students were also underrepresented as paid interns and overrepresented as unpaid interns. That's the opposite of what the National Association of Colleges and Employers found for White students, who are overrepresented in paid internships and underrepresented in unpaid internships. "Talent is everywhere, but opportunity is not," says LISC President Denise Scott.

To combat that, over two years, LISC's National HBCU Talent Development program will place 40 students in part-time paid internships with local LISC offices and other community development financial institutions (CDFIs). The LISC internships, which the Citi Foundation funds, pay $25 per hour and up to $15,000 for the academic year.

"This program is part of our work to address systemic racial barriers that keep young people from gaining the experience and connections they need to compete for good jobs," Scott explains. "Through this program, students can earn a strong wage, gain hands-on experience, work with mentors, and build a network of contacts and supporters—all while supporting valuable community investment activity."


The HBCUs initially supporting the internship program are Howard University, Johnson C. Smith University, Edward Waters University, LeMoyne-Owen College, Lincoln University, Morehouse College, Simmons College, and Virginia State University.

The National HBCU Talent Development program expands on LISC's 2020 launch of the Economic Mobility Corps, which places national service members in positions that help build CDFIs' capacity.

"We have long seen the value in connecting people to community development positions in places that they know and care about," Scott says. "Our HBCU internship program takes that a step further, focusing on gaps in opportunity for students of color, injecting equity into CDFI recruitment efforts, and building a community development workforce that reflects the people and places it serves."

About the Author

Bobby Lewis is a writer for ATD; [email protected].

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