By Melissa Johns, Executive Vice President

As we head full steam into June, Pivotal is on a mission to Save Summer 2020! Normally you’d find us spending the last days in May helping high school and collegiate scholars finalize the details of their summer internships, while calming their nerves as they prepare for their first professional jobs. But 2020 is no typical year.

Coronavirus has upended the tradition of summer internships, and young people across the country are feeling the impact. For foster youth, losing their summer internship is a double whammy. They lose out on invaluable professional experience AND they lose out on wages they were counting on to make ends meet during this challenging time.

According to a National Association of Colleges and Employers survey, about 80 percent of employers nationwide are making changes to their internship programs, including shortening the duration of internships or asking interns to work remotely. Some are canceling altogether. Pivotal’s Business Development Manager, Tom Fandre, confirms that trend is unfolding here in Silicon Valley. “Unfortunately, it’s hard for a lot of these companies to commit the financial resources and/or staff time during such uncertain times. Our contacts at these companies are just as bummed as we are. They rely on internships to build a diverse talent pipeline. We had 25 companies lined up for this summer, and we’re down to six.”

With traditional internships on pause, our team is pivoting to make the most of summer 2020 for our scholars, while helping them earn some of the wages they were counting on this summer.

Some of our scholars will take part in virtual internships with employer partners such as PayPal, Excite Credit Union, Norton LifeLock, City of Saratoga and Silicon Valley Clean Energy. We applaud these companies taking the leap to provide virtual internships, and we are working closely with them to ensure that our youth are prepared to make the most of these valuable learning experiences.

As another adaptation to our traditional internship program, Pivotal is creating a new four-week paid professional development experience for our college students. Participants will attend a series of Zoom workshops designed to help them build their professional brand, learn the ins and outs of professional communication in a virtual world, and explore career fields of interest. As a capstone project, participants will arrange and conduct their own informational interviews with volunteers from the community whose work aligns with their professional interests. Participants who attend every workshop and complete all assignments and the capstone project will earn a financial “bonus” at the end of the experience. We are pleased to partner with Symba, a San Francisco-based start-up that helps companies offer virtual internships. The Symba platform will help our participants track their projects, interact with one another virtually, and collect feedback from the professional mentors they encounter throughout their four-week learning journey.

As we put the final touches on our summer 2020 plans, we’re turning to you – our Pivotal community – to help us achieve our mission of helping every young person in our program gain the education and work experience they need to become self-sufficient. Here’s how you can help us reach this lofty goal:  

  1. Consider making a donation to Pivotal to help us compensate these young people. They need the money to make ends meet, and let’s reward them for their personal commitment to professional and personal growth!
  2. Sign up to offer 40 minutes of your time for an informational interview about your career. Tell us your name and what you do for a living. If one of our scholars is interested in your line of work, we’ll make the connection!

Lastly, we want to offer huge thanks to Capital One, Adobe, Comerica, and Bank of America for their support of our Summer Internship and Professional Development program. Their support is what enables our team to make this summer magic happen!