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School Closing Information

High-tech internship opportunities in Washtenaw County have deadlines approaching

Students working on coding
Students working on coding


Cathy Shafran: This is 89.1 WEMU. I'm Cathy Shafran. We might be all fixated on the winter weather right now, but for many university students, now's the time to focus on landing an internship for the summer. There is a particular push now for experience in the high-tech sector. Bud Gibson is director of EMU's Center for Digital Engagement. He is one who not only knows the importance of the experience, but also knows the pathway to find those internships, but is joining us now. Bud, thank you so much for being here.

Bud Gibson
EMU Center for Digital Engagement
Bud Gibson

Bud Gibson: Well, thank you for having me, Cathy. It's great to be on.

Cathy Shafran: I'm wondering what you would say is the greater position at this point: the demand for students who are looking for high tech internships, or high-tech companies that are trying to find interns?

Bud Gibson: I think there is definitely an increase that we see in students looking for high-tech internships this year. And if I look at it over the past couple of years, what we saw was last year was a particularly strong employment year. We had about 300 applicants that year. I think, this year, we're going to shoot past that probably somewhere in the 400 to 500 applicant range for our internship. We're also seeing strong demand from employers. And, you know, particularly, once you get out of the large companies and you're into the smaller and medium-sized companies, which have had a harder time in the labor market, so I think it's going to be strong on both sides this year. And I'm anticipating some good outcomes, at least for our internship for everybody involved.

Cathy Shafran: Let's talk first about what the companies are looking for in terms of interns. What type of companies are we talking about, and what are the skills that a student could learn in such an internship?

Bud Gibson: Well, there's a whole variety of companies. So, in our particular internship, we're really focused on the high-tech and the startup sector, and we help them with all sorts of things, from digital advertising through to website development, app development, analytics, understanding what people coming into your system are doing. And then, content creation. That's always a big one. We're very involved in building our business. We need some help, you know, creating some social media. We had a robotics company last year that actually created TikTok videos for the student team we put with them or writing blog posts in the voice of everyday regular people to try and help customers understand what the company does. So, students can get all sorts of experience from this. So, if you're kind of more on the developer side, you know, maybe a computer science student, you can get actual real experience developing apps both on websites and then also on mobile devices. If you are a business student, you can get experience doing online ads, social media, sales. Sales is always a big one for smaller companies, helping them with the whole sales process. And if you're a liberal arts major, you know, say maybe a PR or comms major or a English major or even a linguistics major, we've had all of those, you can get experience in all forms of content creation, from written to graphical to digital video. And so, there's just a wide range of opportunities for students coming out of college or other post-secondary degree to get involved and, you know, to get a jumpstart on their careers.

Cathy Shafran: How important is it for the students to move quickly?

Bud Gibson: We have a philosophy which we call the "fail faster philosophy". It's quite often the case that your first try doesn't work. Okay. And so, you want to get that under your belt quickly, and, you know, keep on building up until, ultimately, you start to develop a consistent record of success. For our internship, applications are now open. I recommend applying as soon as you can, but they're going to stay open until April 30th.

Cathy Shafran: How would you describe the numbers? A lot more applicants, you think, than openings, or a lot more openings than applicants?

Bud Gibson: We hire for 48 interns, okay? So, we have a lot of openings, relatively speaking. We'll get 300 applications or, you know, somewhere between three and 500. Now, you might think, "Oh, my God! You know, maybe I only have a one in chance of getting this internship." Well, the truth of the matter is is those people are applying to multiple different internships. We're getting applications from multiple different people. Those chances are actually pretty good for interns who are qualified. And so, I would say, for the person applying, there's actually a lot of opportunity. You may not get that first thing you apply to, but there's enough opportunities out there that you're going to wind up with something. I think it's probably a little bit more of a positive for interns, than it is positive for companies finding somebody.

Cathy Shafran: So, you are able to place students in 48 different positions in different companies. Is that correct?

Bud Gibson: What we do is we place the students in teams of two. We find that works best to have them working as a team in the internship. We actually wind up with about 24 or 25 companies in that range, all within, typically within, the Ann Arbor Spark high-tech incubator.

Cathy Shafran: Internships are now paid. Is that correct?

Bud Gibson: Oh, yes. $18 an hour. And now, it is a part-time internship to start. And we do that specifically looking at the student who is working their way through school. Our research showed us that they had a hesitancy to commit to a full-time internship because they'd have to give up the job that was paying the bills. And so, we said, "Okay, we'll offer a part time internship" with pay commensurate with the kinds of jobs they're typically doing, which are, you know, versions of high-end retail or high-end food service. And we'll operate at 10 hours a week to start. And then, if things work out, they can move into more hours per week and, perhaps, even a full-time role in their new internship.

Cathy Shafran: And I don't think that we can stress enough the importance of an internship for a student.

Bud Gibson: Yes, you cannot. And I think that the internship really helps people understand what a professional job is really all about. Often, you have this fantasy image, you know, what your chosen profession might be, and you really want to get in and get rid of those fantasies and understand what it really means to work in the field and whether the real kinds of work that you're going to be doing and does that work for you.

Cathy Shafran: So, if somebody is interested in applying for an internship through the EMU Center for Digital Engagement, what do they do?

Bud Gibson: They go to digitalsummer.clinic. So, digitalsummer.clinic. If you just Google 'Digital Summer Clinic', we come up at the top of the results. Get there on the web. We have a whole website full of information about the internship, the experiences of past interns, the application form is there, and so, that's the best thing to do. Go to digitalsummer.clinic.

Cathy Shafran: Bud Gibson, director of EMU Center for Digital Engagement, thank you so much for joining us. And you can find a link with information about the internship on our website, WEMU.org. I'm Cathy Shafran, and you are listening to 89.1 WEMU FM Ypsilanti.

You can find a link to the internship applications at: digitalsummer.clinic

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Cathy Shafran was WEMU's afternoon news anchor and local host during WEMU's broadcast of NPR's All Things Considered.
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