New Webinar Series on Internship Research in 2020
Transcript

Wednesday, June 24, 2020
11am CST
Dr. Carrie Shandra (Stony Brook Univ)

What Employers Want from Interns: Demand-Side Trends in the Internship Market

>> Matthew Hora: Good morning everybody. My name is Matthew Hora, I’m the director of the Center for Research on College to Workforce Transitions at UW-Madison and we’re here today with Dr. Carrie Shandra from Stony Brook University, and we’ll be talking about her research on internships. If you haven’t joined us before, this webinar series, it’s something that we’re doing instead of our Internship Symposium which usually happens in September. Because of the pandemic, we will not be holding it, but instead we’re doing these regular weekly informal chats with scholars around the world about their internship research. And I’m really enjoying it, starting to make connections with people all over the world and it’s great to find out what people are doing on the cutting edge.

Today, we have as our guest Carrie Shandra, she’s an associate professor in the Department of Sociology at Stony Brook University, and her research is broadly focused on understanding work and life course inequalities in the United States. Especially as they occur during the transition to adulthood and among individuals with disabilities. Dr. Shandra’s research on work includes both paid employment and other forms of productivity that may not be compensated in the market, including care work, housework, and volunteering. She’s also interested in understanding young adult’s early labor force participation and the factors that promote future employment. And today we’ll be talking about Carrie’s recent paper, came out in 2020 this year on what employers want form interns, looking at the demand side.

And so, before we get started Carrie, just want to say to our audience we are recording these webinars, they’re on the CCWT website, it’ll be available in a few days from now, and there we are also posting our next few webinars. They’re with a guest, the next two actually are from Australia that are doing some really innovative research on internships. And with that, Carrie thank you for joining us today.

>> Carrie Shandra: Thank you for having me Matthew, for hosting these events that we get to participate in remotely.

>> Matthew Hora: Okay, well let’s get started. Can you tell us Carrie, what motivated you to do this work, why study the demand side of the internship marketplace?

>> Carrie Shandra: Sure, so I want to start with by saying this is a working paper, a preprint so that being said I’d love to hear any and all research, practitioner thoughts, so this is a great opportunity for me to tap the collective brain of the experts who are also in the room today.

But the reason that I approached this question, I would say there’s two overall puzzles. One is a data issue, you have a data problem in those of you who study or administer internship problems, you know internship programs, you know that there isn’t a lot of great data that’s nationally representative on internships. So where might we look if you want to understand what’s happening? We could look at Bureau of Labor Statistics information on employment, there is no internship data there, we could look at cohort studies that are traditionally funded by Department of Education and those also don’t include comprehensive internship information. Or we could look at administrative records to look at oh, records or harassment discrimination records and try to get in internship that way, and that’s also not a source of internship data. So, part of this is trying to address the lack of information that we have about what it actually means to do an internship in the United States, and who is doing that. So, shout out to Matthew who the internship study has been collecting some of this data as of last year which is really exciting if you want to head over to the CCW website, there’s a really neat data tool there that you can check out. But if you want to know how internships have changed over time, we have less of a robust set of data to understand that, so that’s one of the aims of this study is to set some foundational information about what internships have looked like. And especially how they’ve changed over the course of the Great Recession which I think has some implications for the internship market today.

So, data is one issue and the second reason that our motivation for the study was the social science puzzle. So, as someone who’s interested in studying school to work transitions and inequality in those transitions, I think internships are this sort of huge gap, right? Because we don’t have data on them, we also don’t know how they matter or don’t matter as much as other forms of work experience for getting that first job. And we have great case study data, we have other smaller scale evidence, but there is sort of this puzzle of how internships factor in long-term employment trajectories. So, if you take a look, there’s some great work by economists and how they think about questions in terms of supply and demand. So, John Nunley at UW-La Crosse has a great working paper about internships and the demand for interns, but these are based on economic assumptions about how employment works. And internship as we all know are not often technically employment, right? They often are housed in educational institutions, they are often unpaid, and they are often required by academic programs. So, for all those reasons we might think that internships operate differently than employment, so this was the second motivation. What is this puzzle, how does the internship market act, is it a market, and does it behave the same way as traditional types of jobs?

>> Matthew Hora: Great, thank you Carrie. And a question that I get frequently that I want to pose to you to see if you have any thoughts on it is how many internships are there in the United States? I get that question from reporters and from scholars, and my understanding of it is there’s not really a good data set that we can tell with any definitive myths that there are 2.2 million internships in the U.S. Am I wrong, are there good data out there about how many internship there are in our country?

>> Carrie Shandra: That’s a great question, that would be very useful information both for intern, potential interns and for those who are experiential educators and in career services. But you’re not wrong Matthew, the one source that’s been pretty useful is Burning Glass Technologies or BGT, you’re heard that acronym. They are a data analytics company that scrapes web postings so you can get internship vacancies that are scraped for a variety of online job boards. So, I would say that it’s a source, but as we know a lot of internships often don’t get posted on public job boards, they often go through private jobs boards or Handshake or they’re word of mouth, so there is no great, great source of internship data nationally.

>> Matthew Hora: Okay, I was hoping I was wrong, and you had your fingers on some awesome new data set, but okay. And that was a great segue into my next question about the data set that you’re using in your own research, the Burning Glass data set. Could you tell me a little bit more about the data and some of the methods that you’ve used to do some inquiries into that data set?

>> Carrie Shandra: Sure. So, because I’m interested in this question about how internship change over time and particularly across the recession and the business cycle, Burning Glass started collecting these data in 2007. So, it is at the very beginning before the Great Recession fully hits and so I purchased these proprietary data from 2007 through 2016. So, I’m able to observe how internship vacancies or postings change over that 10-year period. Now, what sort of information am I able to observe? For my question, I’m primarily interested in three measures. One is how many internship postings require educational credentials, so how many require a student to have a B.A. or an M.A. or don’t list an educational requirement. The second measure is about experience, so do employers conceive of internship as entry-level jobs, or do they want to hire people ideally that have some experience under their belts. And the third variable or measure that I’m interested in is the skill that employers are asking, both what those skills are and the level of skill. So, these data allow us to measure both what the levels are and how they’re changed annually. So that’s an advantage of Burning Glass as ideal as it would be to have these nationally representative data, we can get an idea of what the market looks like based on these job advertisements. And that is something that economists have been doing for a while to look at traditional employment.

So, what do I do with these data? The first question is really just a descriptive question, what changed over time and how did it change, did it change by industry? And if we take a look at traditional economic arguments, they would predict that as unemployment increases during a recession or right now, we can think of how that might change, employers can afford to be choosier in the sort of workers that they would like to hire. So, what does that mean? It means that a lot of people are looking for jobs then I as an employer can increase the amount of skills that I require when those people apply for jobs. So, we’ve seen this, this responsiveness of job advertisements to the unemployment rate based on supply of workers and the demand for workers. But like I said, that is the traditional approach, some also say that after the last recession we see an increase in those skills but that because of how the labor market has changed, employers are able to command more skills even after unemployment goes does. So, that would be referred to as a structural change, so we see a supply and demand that follows a traditional sort of employment curve where we see a structural change where skills keep increasing.

And so those are the two hypotheses that I was sort of testing to see what internship skills fall in. And it is the latter explanation and I think that this is important for us to think about as we enter pandemic time and the sort of revamped labor market for young people is that employers if you look over time were able to increase their educational requirement. From 2007, 12% of internship posting required a bachelor’s degree and 40% required a bachelor’s degree in 2016, so in other words employers are able to command a lot higher level of skill post-recession than pre-recession. There also we see the same pattern if we look at specific types of skills, so not just looking at a college degree which may be sort of a messy signal of what sort of skills you have, but if you look at the percentage of ads that ask for information technology skills or engineering skills, you see the same sort of pattern. Now, one unique or divergent pattern is four years of experience. So, I think this is really telling if you look at the percentage of internship postings that asked for more than several years of experience over that same time period, the line is essentially flat. So basically, that means that despite employers increasing their skill requirements for internships over the recession and recovery period, they continue to recognize that internships were entry-level jobs. So, take home message from that is employers want skills in hand and they want more of them as time has gone by in the last decade or so.

>> Matthew Hora: All right, thank you Carrie, and I’m glad that you said that the trendline is flat for years of experience because when we do focus groups with some student interns, they often are frustrated because some internships require experience and they say wait a minute that’s why I’m doing an internship, to get experience so I can get a real full-time job. But some of them, the entry requirements are sufficiently high that they feel like they could never get one. I’m interested though, if you could tell us a little bit more about what you think is happening with the increase in educational credentials over time and if you would hypothesize we’re going to see the same thing happening now in 2020 with whatever we’re going to call this recession, but we’re in one. And college students are going to be graduating into it so, do you think we’re going to see a similar increase in credential requirements?

>> Carrie Shandra: So, there are a couple of mechanisms that we can look to that might explain what these patterns mean. One is that it may be industry specific and I think both of these have implications for now. One is that it’s industry specific right, so that the recession just involved this, this revision in what industries were growing and which were shrinking, but if we look at those results, they hold over industry so we can get rid of that explanation. The other explanation is that well it’s not just internship skills that are increasing, it’s skills over the entire labor market. And the way we can test that is by seeing if there’s a similar pattern for quote-on-quote non-internship jobs or just postings for traditional jobs. And that is also not the case. We compare the skill increase for internships; this is not internships. Internships outpace non-internships in all industries from pre and post-recession.

So, what we think this means for the current situation is that first of all, employers can ask for a lot more in terms of skills from interns and we have to keep that in mind a lot of internship opportunities are going away, right? So, I think that’s it’s going to put students and potential interns at an even more potential squeeze because as the supply of intern opportunities goes down and as companies feel the economic fallout. Either through you know, laying off employees or in closing their doors entirely, then the same opportunities may not be available to students. And so, they may substitute some of that entry-level labor for intern labor which would give interns sort of I guess a step in the right direction in labor market, but overall I think it’s going to equate into a reduction of opportunities for students.

And why that matters is because this whole cohort of juniors and seniors who have these internships already lined up are going to miss that exposure window, that opportunity to get a summer internship that can get their foot in the door. So, I think we’re going to see a lot fewer of those opportunities and employers are going to be asking for a lot more of those applicants and that definitely raises some questions for both internship equity, but also long-term employment equity more broadly.

>> Matthew Hora: Yeah, I think unfortunately there’s going to be a lot of things happening right now that’ll be interesting for researchers like us to look at with respect to the internship market and student experience. I say unfortunate because obviously it’s not going to be good for many students out there. And one of the things that you know, a lot of people are looking to is a response to the decline of internship openings right now is micro internships. Am I correct also in thinking that Burning Glass does not capture those postings? You know, the types of short-term projects that vendors such as Parker Dewey or virtualinternships.com offer? I would think that they’re not being scraped by Burning Glass.

>> Carrie Shandra: I haven’t taken a look at the more recent data, so I don’t think that is the case. I’ll punt that one to you, I think you’re in the micro internship world right now, so what do you think?

>> Matthew Hora: Yeah, I doubt they’re going to be captured or lifted which I guess complicates how we can characterize the internship market even further, because right now there’s going to be a lot of students turning to you know, micro internships. Fortunately, we’re going to be able to study some of those within Parker Dewey, they’re one of the largest firms in the United States that’s offering them. But it’s going to be a different you know, beast, different types of experiences, different student cohorts, but hopefully we’ll be able to say something about it in a couple months. You’ve already exploded my interview protocol Carrie, I have this list of questions, but we’ve already been diverted because there’s so much good stuff here. Are there any other key findings that you’d like to talk about from this analysis of the Burning Glass data set?

>> Carrie Shandra: Sure, I think one of the things that sticks out in comparing how skills and credentials has changed between internships and non-internships is that there does appear to be somewhat of a substitution effect. So, what that means is that employers may be hiring interns instead of entry-level positions as sort of a way to either yes, I plan their new potential hires, but also to potentially reduce their full-time workforce. So, I think that is something that researchers should keep an eye on as we move forward with understanding how school-to-work works in the pandemic, right? Because now not only are there going to be fewer internship opportunities, but if students don’t have them, they’re going to sort of accumulate this disadvantage if when they go to get hired for a full-time job. So, that’s one thing that I think is important.

See, the other thing and I may be jumping the gun here but if we think about what’s happening on campuses, and we see higher education institutions as key places where students get matched to employers, and employers recruit and students can utilize career services, a lot of how that business as usual is happening is changing very rapidly. So, what that means is a lot of students who may rely on those sorts of services to do their job search are no longer going to have the same sort of access, so I’m thinking about employment equity, right? As a lot of students move home and especially working at an institution with a high social mobility index, we have an opportunity to reach students in new and exciting ways. But that also presents a lot of challenges in making sure that students can get those services, especially if they’re experiencing residential instability, or becoming a primary caretaker, or aren’t able to log on to consistent internet. So, I think in thinking about a delivery of services model, how to reach students even as those opportunities because more constrained, should be top of mind and I know it’s the top of a lot of people, especially those in career services. But that’s I think a conversation that we all can keep pushing on at our home institutions.

>> Matthew Hora: Great, thanks Carrie. I wanted to ask about the substitution effect you mentioned because that seems really important. Is this something that you found in your data set or are you referring to other research that is showing that’s happening?

>> Carrie Shandra: I think as far as we can tell from Burning Glass, there is evidence to suggest that because those skills are increasing more for internship vacancies as opposed to non-internship vacancies that the data are suggestive of some level of substitution. Now, to fully explore the hypothesis without getting too much into the weeds, we would need to look within company, we need to look within sector and labor market area, and those data unfortunately are stretching the data pretty thin to be able to do that. But from other work I’ve also interviewed career services personnel as well as internship recruiters at companies in the New York metropolitan area.

And I would say that overall the strategy for interns, the function of interns as many of us who are in experiential education learn or faculty know can often take one or two forms, right? One is primarily a recruiting function to expand the labor pool or as sort of this labor substitution effects where a lot of short-term projects are allocated to interns instead of to full-time workers. So, with that in mind, as part of this sort of new economy post-recession I think it’s important to think about how we reach students in equipping them to step into those roles in a way that they can both make sure they get training they need. If it’s their first professional job and also parlay that experience into full-time employment if an employer is not going to convert them within the workplace. So, I may have taken us down a rabbit hole there but those are two ways that I think substitution sort of matters for the current levels, yeah.

>> Matthew Hora: Yeah, no the rabbit hole is great because these webinars are intended to be you know, informal conversations and this is an important topic. And Stephanie mentioned this, she asked a question how does this connect to the changing world of work with the gig economy? And before you answer Carrie, I just want to say that one of the things that we’ve been watching closely here in Wisconsin how the Taiwanese electronic company Foxconn is functioning here because they were supposed to build this very large facility in southern Wisconsin and have tons of jobs, it hasn’t materialized yet, it may never we’ll see. But one of the reasons it was of interest to us is there’s a scholar in Hong Kong, her name is *inaudible, someone’s first name* Chan, and she’s done some really great research on how Foxconn strategy was precisely the substitution effect you’re talking about where they were using high school and college interns and replacing their full-time workers who received you know, benefits and a decent wage with these students. And the students were complaining, they were basically doing shift work manufacturing iPhone and iPads spending ten to twelve hours on the line basically when Apple had a ramp up in production needs. And so, there’s been some concern that some of the internships in the United States, especially some of the micro internships may be replacing what full-time workers could be doing. And now that we’re in a recession, my sense is that may be a rational response by some employers, they need to cut costs and if you have a ready-made pool of cheap student labor, it would be understandable if they tapped into that.

>> Carrie Shandra: Yeah, I think it’s tricky without firm level data and transparency in that data to capture the extent to which that happens. I do think that from a developmental perspective, a higher education perspective, if we think of internships as a bundle of good that provides a lot of different utilities for students, both in the skill development portion of it, but also in the social capital development, the networking aspect of it. Then we may have to pivot a little bit and think of ways in which people in higher education who have sort of a gatekeeper role in thinking about how internships are approved or how employers are vetted, can adapt if they adapt at all and what sort of standards for learning and quality assurance we can bake into that process, especially as the landscape is shifting very rapidly.

None of us have a crystal ball or can predict what’s going to happen in the fall or the spring or next year and how this cohort of college students is going to fare in the labor market. But a lot of us are in positions to sign off on internships or to advise students in a counseling role, and I think that this is something that’s worth the conversation. It’s not a good time to be graduating and looking for a job but it is a time that we can think of other ways to try and deliver those skills and those connections to students and we have to be creative and sort of nimble about how we do that.

>> Matthew Hora: Yeah, thanks Carrie, and you know the issue of data transparency is obviously a critical one. In the research I was talking about that *inaudible* (26:58) I was frankly surprised that she got access you know, to some of those records and some of the data from Foxconn and I suspect that no longer they’ll be providing that access. Theresa asks do you know what employers want from potential employees who have had internships? How much of a difference does it make to them?

>> Carrie Shandra: So, I’ll speak to what I know from audit studies of what economists have done and then I’ll say a little bit more based on the qualitative work that I’ve done interviewing. So, if we look at some of the experimental resumé that economists have done, this basically means that a research will create a resumé and they will manipulate one part of it to include a key variable. And in this case that key variable would be an internship. And they’ll also create an identical other resumé without that key variable, so both of those resumés will be submitted to a job advertisement and then you can quantify the extent to which an internship matters above and beyond all those other characteristics. And because you can experimentally manipulate that one variable, you can get a causal effect. So, what that means is we can measure how much getting an internships matter, if it matters at all for future employment. And it does matter, we can say that causally those who have an internship on the resumé are more likely to be hired and it’s true is some fields more than others, but pretty much across the board, that’s an important signal.

In terms of the nuance behind that, the mechanisms that’s not really something that’s easy to get an in experience so I’ve spent a lot of time interviewing employers about what they’re looking for from their entry-level hires. And a lot of them do say an internship is important, but the alternative to having an internship is having some way to demonstrate important skills, either through a volunteer experience or project or in a portfolio, so especially in this era where students may no longer have this ready-made signal of an internship on their resumé, I still want to hope that there are alternative mechanisms that students can demonstrate they have proficiency in these other areas. So it’s a great question, I don’t know how things will change post-pandemic but a lot of employers that I spoke with ultimately want to design hiring processes that are able to identify whether or not those candidates are going to have the right skills, and an internship is certainly a good indicator of that but I don’t think it’s the only indicator. And I think that’s both a challenge and an opportunity for us who are in higher education.

>> Matthew Hora: Right, and as you were talking Carrie, you know a great topic for future research came to mind, and any graduate students or enterprising researchers out there. A resumé audit study that had you know, the manipulated variable being a micro internship I think would be fascinating to see well first of all do employers know what they are and then do they respond to them any differently than students who have not had one. That’s a study to do later. We have more questions this is from Barbara, Carrie could you go more deeply into the kinds of services or activities that prepare students for the workplace with internship availability shrinking?

>> Carrie Shandra: That’s a great question. So, I teach a sociology work class, and this is something that I sort of grapple with, and I know Matthew you’ve done a lot of things on skills in the classroom as well. So, I’ll also defer you on that one, but I think micro internships are sort of this really interesting opportunity to study what sort of skills, what the value add is for students, right? What does the learning look like there, what are the outcomes, but it’s also on the other side an opportunity to look at how those will be perceived by employers. And I think one of the things that came out in my interviews and I think also are suggested in these audit studies is that a lot of times the internship was just that, right? It’s a signal and when a student, an intern goes into an interview is when employers have the opportunity to sort of understand what that signal means and whether or not it can match to the labor market.

So, micro internships are one, I think another activity I have found useful, my students have found useful in my class is to do an audit of their social network and just sort of see what sort of resources they can leverage. This definitely relates to internship access and equity, there’s a lot of students when I have them go through these exercises about who is in their network and what sort of resources might be available, they don’t think they have any connections. And you often times have to sit down and give them multiple ways of thinking about who is in that network in order for them to realize that they do, but it’s often the students who are first-generation or don’t have access to other sorts of financial resources that are less cognizant of where they might be able to look, right? So, they have lower access to highly educated others in their social network, and they also may be more reluctant to sort of reach out for or leverage the networks that they do have. So, that’s not really answering the question entirely, but I do think we have to get creative about how we make up for some of this lack of opportunity that hits racial minorities and first-generation students.

>> Matthew Hora: Yeah, thanks Carrie. And one of the things that we’ve been thinking about with respect to micro internships is how professional and social networks can be developed because those micro internships tend to be too short for that to happen. And I know some campuses, they’re trying to activate their alumni networks and put students that are working in a certain sector in touch with their alums, just so they can you know try to jumpstart the student’s professional networking.

You also mentioned equity and given the state of the world right now and the protests that are going on in the aftermath of George Floyd’s killing, I wanted to briefly touch upon that, and I think it’s salient with this idea of resumé audit studies as well because I believe one of the bits of research that John Nunley has done has been manipulating the name of the student in the resumé to have an African American sounding name relative to a Caucasian sounding name. And they found pretty significant percentage of discrimination happening on the basis of names and that’s you know, something that in sociology at work and HR has been demonstrated, and unfortunately proven to not change that much in the last twenty, thirty years. Can you speak a little bit more about your understanding of some of that research and maybe if there’s anything we can do as higher education professionals about this?

>> Carrie Shandra: Yeah, so I think this, there are a couple ways to think about how the pandemic is and how we can better serve racial minorities and especially address systemic racism in the context of the last few weeks. So, one I guess I’ll start with is there’s a recent strata pull that looked at educational plans by student background characteristics, and they found that black and Hispanic Americans are disproportionately impacted by COVID, that we know but when they queried them about their educational and employment plans they’re also more likely to report that they wanted to change their educational plans altogether, and that they were more likely to fear a layoff and to work about losing their jobs. So, I think that’s definitely one part of it is that we have some people who are disproportionately affected, both economically and health-wise by having the disease or the economic fallout of the disease, and a lot of times they’re disproportionately on the front lines. So, this means they’re less able to engage in self-protection behaviors and continue being at higher risk, so that is definitely one major consequence and that means that you know, people are going to have space larger family and household strains as well in addition to their personal strain.

The other thing that sort of sticks out to me in terms of equity is in general, as your research shows that there are a lot of barriers to internship access more broadly. We know that people that students who are working full-time or part-time are less able to accept internships if they’re unpaid, your research and your focus groups say that, right? Is that other work commitments are a major barrier to accepting an internship. But, other issues like transportation as well and I’ll add students with disabilities in there too, because access is an issue. Now, all that’s changing a little bit with work from home and this new reality that we’re in, but I do think in terms of higher education how we can address some of these issues is there’s evidence to suggest that Black and Hispanic students are more likely to utilize services like career services than white, non-Hispanic students. So, that would be one way that career centers can think about making sure that their outreach efforts are reaching students.

Another way is a lot of work organizations have sought to address systemic racism in their own ranks, I think part of that is the hiring process, we know that there is discrimination in the hiring process. Both by racial, ethnic background but also the prestige of the school you go to, so sort of a two-pronged approached is that I think companies that are going to do the public-facing work of addressing racism should also sort of take a deep dive into their own hiring practices to make sure that they are making inclusive and transparent recruitment efforts, and that in those efforts they’re not excluding certain student populations. So, sort of just a plug that if you’re going to sort of make statements about equality, then there’s a lot of ways often times within organizations and sociologists and economists have quantified this, that those practices can be changed to be less discriminatory.

>> Matthew Hora: Yeah, and it strikes me as that’s one of the areas where change needs to happen you know, as who’s making the hiring decisions, to what degree are they masking resumés and CVs so they’re not saying things such as gender or race. One of the challenges though is a state like Wisconsin there’s definitely some large companies and corporations here, but the vast majority of businesses are medium and small where they may not even have an HR department. It may be the vice president or the CEO or the owner of the company that does all the hiring. And that’s where it gets a little tricky because I know some people are focusing on HR training programs in colleges and trying to have more equitable hiring practices and awareness of implicit bias in terms of that training. But that’s not going to capture all the firms out there that are hiring interns and student applicants.

>> Carrie Shandra: Yeah, I think another complicating factor on top of that is that if an internship is unpaid, then it’s technically not an employment relationship which means that it may not be on the books at all in an organization. So, that’s another added barrier to having reflexive hiring practices, if you’re not an organization that’s keenly aware of what those practices are and how you might change them to be better, that’s sort of a first step. Why are you hiring interns and is the process by which you’re doing that one that serves all students?

>>Matthew Hora: Right, I’ve got some more great questions coming in here, we have Bonnie. Could you talk a little bit about paid versus unpaid internships and their intersections with equity? For example, I teach at a Hispanic-serving institution where many of our students are already work part of full-time. And so, this gets at the question I think you know, just the prospects of working students to even take an internship and you know, whether or not an unpaid internship even makes sense or is tenable for some of our students. Do you have any thoughts on that, Carrie?

>> Carrie Shandra: So, unfortunately this falls into the bucket of things we really should have data on and we don’t. But, I will, so that is to say that as a social scientist, I cannot tell you empirically how many internships are paid or unpaid or what at a national scale that looks like. We do know Alex Frenette who’s at Vanderbilt has some great data about cultural industry interns, and the implications of having a paid or an unpaid internship on future employment. And those data suggest that students who have paid internships tend to be more satisfied and tend to be more likely to convert into other jobs and to get jobs after their internship is over.

So, on the whole for a variety of reasons aside from just making sure that insurance are paid for their work, we should want paid internships to be the norm and my worry on the flip side of that is that if interns aren’t being paid, how do we in higher education make sure that they’re getting something that is worth their while? And that is especially the case for students who have fewer social and financial resources for whom an unpaid internship is a higher risk. There are more opportunity costs to giving up a paid job when you don’t, if you’re not going to get paid for it versus if you know you are more financially secure than you know, doing an internship that doesn’t really pay you back isn’t as much of a loss. So, yeah.

>> Matthew Hora: I forget what the acronym stands for but it’s the SNAP data set, and it’s all arts and humanities but it’s really good data set for those of you interested in internship and that sector. Lots of great questions, I’m going to go to one from maybe you’ll recognize this person Carrie, it’s from John Shonda. Can you discuss any changes in skills and other requirements that employers want? Have they changed over time and is it possible with the Burning Class data to answer those questions?

>> Carrie Shandra: So, I think another issue if we look at, and this goes back to the substitution effect and distinguishing between the types of skills that employers want, we see a much higher increase in information technology in sort of these entry-level skills. So, there’s less of an increase in what we might think of as much specialized sector skills like education or healthcare. And those often have more lockstep paths from school to work than liberal arts. But I think what that means is again is there’s more of a substitution effect and that employers are look for a lot of these administrative tasks to be taken over by interns and so and making such that an intern is getting meaningful exposure to other parts of the company is important.

>> Matthew Hora: And one of the things that we find in our research, and this goes for the entire labor market but especially for interns, is a demand for the so-called softer, non-cognitive skills of communication, professionalism, and so forth. I would suspect though that you know, employers have always wanted those things and it’s not necessarily something that’s increasing over time, so that’s just an observation that’s one thing that I know a lot of college are trying to figure out. How can we incorporate some of those competencies into the regular curriculum? So, when students go out and try to get a job or an internship, those are skills that the employers can stop complaining about that are lacking because that’s right now one of the things that they often complain about. Let’s see, oh lots of great questions. Jessica asked there was a push to require internships to be almost completely paid, has there been any change? Carrie, do you have any insights on that?

>> Carrie Shandra: Again, I would love to answer that question with a concrete data point, as to how that’s changed I don’t have that and that’s because we don’t have these data surveillance but also because most internship posting don’t have whether or not an internship is paid on the data sources that Burning Glass is scraping. So, what that means is that’s another potential opportunity for students to not really know what the playing field looks like when they’re applying for an internship, right? Whether it is paid or not and that can be a difficult conversation and negotiation to have.

The other thing that I think might be relevant is there was a sort of reinterpretation of the Fair Labor Standards Act under the current administration so that’s 2018 I think the new test came out, and so in general my understanding is that the internship test or fact sheet 71 has been interpreted as a more flexible test. So, whereas the prior legal advice was that the intern had to be the primary beneficiary of the internship and as it currently stands, the calculus of that has changed. So, how do I think this matters for how or if companies pay their interns? I think companies also don’t really don’t know what to make of the law because it is just a policy suggestion, there’s not really an internship law per se on the book, and maybe they’re being more sensitive to that but the pandemic may be sort of a shock to how employers are making those postings. So, I’m curious to see how that works out.

>> Matthew Hora: So, I was going to ask if the Burning Glass data has hourly wages or indications or whether the position is paid or not, and you’re saying they do not?

>> Carrie Shandra: So, you, one can look to see if an internship is paid or not, but if you look at non-internship jobs employers generally don’t, aren’t very forthcoming in listing what the salary range is. So, in general I would say that those data do exist to some extent, but they are not very reliable in terms of telling us how it’s paid, right? It could report payments, but it could mean a bus pass or lunch voucher or whether or not it’s a stipend over the course of the summer or an hourly wage, so that is a concrete policy change that we can make in higher education, right? Is making sure that employers who recruit on campus have to disclose information and I think that also has equity ramifications, right? Because then I know if so as someone who needs to be paid in a job that this is an opportunity that I can take advantage of without giving up something else.

>> Matthew Hora: Right, I think that’s the second-most frequently asked question I get, not just how many internships are there out in the United States but how many are unpaid. And those data unfortunately don’t exist, so I think to answer your question Jessica, there has been a push for legislative interns in Washington D.C. and in some state legislation offices to be paid. And a group called Pay Our Interns has been really pushing that in D.C. And there has been more I think emphasis being placed on paid internships, some colleges and universities will not post unpaid positions because of that. But I would suspect although we don’t have the data to back this up, there are a heck of a lot of unpaid internships out there, and they’re not going to be going away anytime soon. Well I scanned the questions Carrie, is there anything you want to bring up from our conversation? We have a few more minutes to go.

>> Carrie Shandra: So, thinking about the pay, non-pay aspect it’s one of the arguments that has been made against requiring employer pay is that it will reduce overall the number of internships available, right? If companies have to pay everyone, then they’ll be less likely to hire an intern. John Nunley’s research makes some suggestion that that could be the case, but I do think that it raises the larger issue of what does that mean for equity? And how willing are we in higher education to sort of grapple with that, what the issues means. I notice that a lot of institutions have set up like intern funds to support interns when the internship position is not paid, but again that often happens in institutions that are more well-resourced so it’s a thorny question and one that I think we should all sort of keep an eye out as the economy is taking a nosedive.

>> Matthew Hora: And this seems especially relevant for colleges that are beginning to mandate internships for graduation, where it seems to me that you know, we’re going to have to put into place a lot more student supports for these to actually happen. Transportation vouchers, housing relocation you know, pay, subsidies, a whole lot of things are going to need to be put in place to help students actually get these experiences.

And the last question I’ll ask, because you’re a sociologist I think this is well-placed, and thank you again Carrie for spending time with us and thank you everybody for joining this webinar from around the world. And here’s the question from Sarah: Do you have any comments on how much influence a strong professional network or career community impacts student’s opportunities?

>> Carrie Shandra: That’s a great question. So, part of the other research that I’ve been doing on interviewing employers as to how they hire interns is to have them walk me through this process, from beginning to end. So, how do you first of all requisition an intern position, so how does it get born in your organization, how do you develop the job advertisement, how does that get advertised, how do you recruit for it, how do you interview for it. Now, and parsing out those different components, we can sort of see which parts might be more or less equitable to certain students.

So, I will say a couple things stick out to me. One is that a lot of times, internships are still a closed door, behind-the-scenes sort of arrangement, is that someone’s social network matters entirely for how an intern get hired. I was concerned that employers would not disclose that information and I’m grateful that we were able to have candid conversations about what the hiring process looks like, but I will say a lot of it doesn’t get advertised. And a lot of it also happens, maybe this is a plus side, via platforms like LinkedIn and alumni communities. So that is one thing that students can do, is to make sure that they’re branding themselves professionally or they’re making their work available so that employers perhaps have a better idea of their candidacy. And to use platforms like that to reach out to potential mentors or potential people who can connect them to internships. So, social networks matter a lot, sociologists know that well and I think to the extent that we can help students recognize and then leverage those networks, we can help them connect themselves to a broader array of opportunities. So, I think that’s a really important point.

>> Matthew Hora: Yeah, and one of the research activities we have going on this summer that I’m most excited about for the students doing micro internships, we’re going to have a pre and a post-name generator exercise where they state the extent of their social networks when it comes to career and professional development. Because we’re curious, do micro internships expand student’s networks, we really don’t know. But hopefully we’ll have something to say about that in the fall. So, thanks again Carrie, this has been great it’s always great talking to you and learning more about your research. And thank you everyone for joining us for this webinar.

>> Carrie Shandra: Thank you all, stay safe.