Indeed: Employers Want More Interns, but Student Interest Lags

Roy Maurer By Roy Maurer May 21, 2018
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​More organizations are seeking interns this summer compared with recent years but searches for internships are down, according to job postings data from Indeed.

The global job search engine's labor market research shows that the number of summer internship postings this spring is substantially higher than in the previous two years.

"Internship job postings are off to a fast start in 2018," said Daniel Culbertson, an economist at the Indeed Hiring Lab, the research institute for the company. But interest from students, measured by job searches including the terms "intern" or "internship" on Indeed, are down. They've passed 2016 levels but are short compared with numbers for 2017.

"Searches that include the terms are off to a slow start and could underwhelm this year," Culbertson said.

Just as in previous years, searches for internships peaked in March, according to the data, typically the time when students begin looking for a summer position. Internship postings and searches reach a second peak in November, which is likely when people are looking for a spring internship, Culbertson explained. "We see no similar peak before the start of the fall semester, meaning most truly take advantage of their summer vacation."

Liz Wessel, co-founder and CEO of WayUp, a New York City-based job site and resource center for college students and recent graduates seeking internships or their first jobs, said she has seen no drop in student interest in internships but agrees that employers are looking for more interns.

"Companies are definitely hiring more interns each year, probably because they are realizing the value of investing in talent early," she said.

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Under Armour saw a 25 percent increase in applications for its 2018 Summer League Rookie Program compared with the previous year. The company received more than 17,400 applications for 98 spots this year. In 2013, the program had just over 2,000 applicants.

"The number of applications and limited opportunities to earn a spot in Under Armour's Summer League Rookie Program demonstrates the brand's popularity with Generation Z and the valuable experience our rookies have during the summer that they take back and share with other classmates on campus," said Bryan Kaminski, director of university programs and emerging talent recruiting at the athletics apparel company.

Internships are a great pipeline source for future talent and can help a company establish a strong employer brand to better attract candidates down the road.

This year's program at Under Armour includes students from 57 schools across North America, most of whom are entering their senior year of an undergraduate program or just starting a graduate program.

For 12 weeks, the interns work in a variety of roles across the company, including design, finance, technology, HR, marketing and other business roles.

Kaminski said they do meaningful work, learn from other teammates, and engage with executives to learn from them and ask questions.

Interns Thinking More Broadly, Starting Programs Earlier

Wessel observed the following trends this year:

  • College students applying for internships outside of their major. "Industrial engineers are applying for finance internships, and nursing students are applying for roles at Citibank," she said. "Liberal arts majors are feeling more comfortable applying for internships in the business world. It's exciting, and I think it speaks to the fact that so many employers are not being as rigid about degrees and instead showing interest in the different perspectives these candidates can bring to a role."
  • Sophomores applying for corporate internships. "It used to be you had to have a great internship junior year to get your choice full-time job upon graduation, but now it's moved up to sophomore year. It's getting earlier and earlier, which isn't surprising considering how many companies are providing excellent programs for sophomores now," she said.

No Uptick Seen in Unpaid Internships

Some experts had predicted that recently relaxed rules on paying interns would increase demand, and the rule change could be contributing to the bump in postings.

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) recently scrapped its six-factor test that had to be met before interns could go unpaid. In its place, the department created a "primary-beneficiary test" for determining whether interns are employees. The new test includes seven factors to consider, but each factor does not have to be met and no single factor is determinative. The criteria are designed to examine "the economic reality" of the intern-employer relationship to determine which party is the primary beneficiary of the internship. If the intern is the main beneficiary of the relationship, he or she does not have to be paid.

It's unclear how or if the new test is affecting demand for interns. For her part, Wessel hasn't seen an increase in unpaid internships from the approximately 300,000 employers participating on WayUp. "We have not seen an uptick in employers asking for them," she said. "On the flip side, many employers may not yet know about the DOL change, so it might catch up with us next year."


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