As college graduates continue to confront a tough job market, it’s become almost impossible to get an entry-level job in many industries without relevant internship experience.
Along with providing on-the-job training, internships offer rare learning opportunities that expose students to lucrative job avenues that they may never know about otherwise. Internship opportunities also provide crucial stepping stones for future employment by allowing students to build a network of contacts for career advice and job searches before they even graduate.
However, the growing predominance of unpaid internships has contributed to an uneven playing field that overwhelmingly favors the wealthy. Many prestigious unpaid internships located in expensive cities are only financially feasible for students supported by well-off families. Students from more modest backgrounds unable to work for free are thus automatically excluded from a vast swath of career-advancement opportunities.
Employment remains a concern for all Americans, but young college graduates of color in particular face discouraging odds in a system steeply biased against their favor. If the status quo remains unchecked, we risk further widening an already alarming racial unemployment divide. Companies across all industries must offer more paid internships for students from diverse backgrounds and give them a fighting chance to remain competitive with their privileged peers.
To help even the playing field, the NAACP has partnered with the Money Management Institute (MMI) to offer the Gateway to Leadership program, a 10-week paid summer internship for undergraduates attending Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Students at non-HBCUs are also encouraged to apply.
The internship will recruit a diverse pipeline of talent for the nation’s leading financial firms, including Morgan Stanley, Prudential and Charles Schwab. Interns will have a chance to gain valuable on-the-job experience in areas such as asset management, research, managed accounts, trading, capital markets, sales and marketing, and finance and accounting.
Applications for the summer of 2013 are due by Dec. 15, 2012. If the student meets all the criteria, a telephone interview will be scheduled. Final decisions on the internship will be awarded in January.
American Money is a weekly column written by Dedrick Muhammad, the senior director of the NAACP Economic Programs. To learn more about preventing foreclosure and personal finance, check out the NAACP Financial Freedom Center Facebook Page or on Twitter @naacpecon.
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.
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(Photo: MARK ALMOND Birmingham News /Landov)