Internships Down Optimism Remains


By Stuart Esrock, Ph.D.

New national research indicates that internship and co-op opportunities will decline slightly across the country in 2021.   In its research report, the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) indicates the decline is a reflection of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

According to NACE, intern hiring will be down about .5% in 2021 while co-op hiring will fall nearly 3%.  While noting the decreases, at the same time NACE points to the rather slight declines as an indication that most employers continue to value internships and co-ops, and that many have made accommodations to these programs to account for the public health crisis, primarily by shifting work online.  

The director of the UofL University Career Center, Bill Fletcher, thinks the outlook is promising, despite NACE’s projection of declines in 2021 for internships and co-ops.  “That is not bad news for being in a global pandemic.  Even more promising is that we are seeing increases in internships posted in the Handshake career management platform this year over last year.  Nationwide internships in the system are up 16.4% and internships within 60 miles of Louisville are up 18.8%.  Those total numbers are 8,289 and 382 respectively.  Plus, we still have over 2 months left in this reporting year to increase the totals.”   

Among employers that are changing their intern and co-op hiring, NACE said a full three-quarters cited the needs and resources of the organization while half pointed to the pandemic.  Meanwhile, 37% indicated the economy drove changes. 

The NACE research on internships and co-ops was based on a survey of member organizations during the winter with 227 respondents; another 39 non-member companies also completed the survey.  For a look at national trends in internship/co-op hiring over the course of the last several years, see the table below.


Internship Opportunities