College students rely on internships to give them hands-on experience before graduating and going into the workforce. However, this year, 22% or nearly one in four college students had their summer internships canceled because of the pandemic, according to a survey done by the National Association of Colleges and Employers.
“I was supposed to work with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway this summer, working full-time for about 10 weeks,” said Purdue University junior Patrick Haimbaugh. “I was really excited about it, but it did get canceled.”
Fortunately for Haimbaugh, when his internship fell through, a company called TechPoint was seeing how many students were losing internships and decided it wanted to help.
“It felt like I had a second chance, like the summer wasn’t just going to be a blowout,” said Haimbaugh.
“We thought you know what based on our organization, position and where we sit in the community, this is an area where we can make a difference,” said Mike Langellier, the CEO of TechPoint.
TechPoint normally has a summer internship program that helps about 100 students, but in the wake of the wave of internship cancellations, it decided to create a second summer internship program for five times as many students. The new program was practically created overnight and called the SOS Challenge.
“Their task is over the course of five weeks to come up with a product prototype and a go-to market strategy aimed at one of nine different challenge topics, and they are all COVID related,” said Langellier. “So, they include things like tele-health, outbreak detections, restaurants and small businesses.”
TechPoint got 56 other companies and more than 250 tech professionals to commit to helping with the SOS Challenge interns. Beyond the networking and mentorships, TechPoint setup the internship to have $25,000 prize for the group with the best prototype and arranged for the group to get an award from Indiana’s governor.
“We are excited to be able to make a difference amidst challenging times for so many people,” said Langellier.
With unemployment rates so high, college graduates are entering one of the most competitive jobs markets ever. So, any extra experience now is probably more helpful than ever.
“I am so thankful for the team at TechPoint,” said Haimbaugh. “For people who lost their internship, I say keep looking because there are opportunities. They are hard and it is going to be hard to get them but keep trying.”