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Hungry startups race to hire students taking a COVID-19 gap year

[BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR] Startups are given a unique opportunity to tap into this large pool of potential interns during this year.

college students gather around laptop

For college students looking forward to the on-campus experience, paying a hefty university price tag to sit in their parents’ living room and take online classes just doesn’t hit the same way. Some students have opted for community college classes this semester, while others have decided to sit this year out and take a COVID-19 gap year.

Several companies see this trend as an opportunity. Remote internships and virtual gap years are now being presented as an alternative to college students looking to do something different this year. The venture firms Contrary Capital and Neo have embraced this unique time. Contrary Capital, who raised money from companies like Tesla and Reddit, is offering to invest $100,000 to five teams of entrepreneurs who decide to take a gap year and build a company. Neo organized a virtual career fair to match students and startups this year. Startup accelerator, Y Combinator, has assembled a list of Silicon Valley startups looking to hire Fall interns as well.

This could be a win for students who are weighing the true cost of spending thousands of dollars for a year of online classes while missing the on-campus experience and want to get some real world experience. Neo CEO, Ali Partovi, said that his company surveyed 120 students participating in its mentorship programs and results showed 46% interested in taking a gap semester and 21% interested in a gap year.

Companies are approaching this new segment of the workforce in different ways. Postmates Inc. will potentially extend the experience for summer interns on its team working on robot-delivery through the Fall semester. A fiber-based local exchange carrier headquartered in Waynesboro, VA, called Lumos is offering approximately $80,000 to full time fellows to work on projects during the 2020-2021 school year.

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Beyond a traditional gap year, a year of service is also an option. At a time in our nation with a spotlight on social justice, Habitat for Humanity is promoting a gap program that gives participants a chance to engage in service to their communities. Some municipalities are offering opportunities in to help in the COVID-19 response through Service Year. For some students who would have gone directly from college into their careers, this year can be spent taking on an “essential job”, which may be a different kind of work than what they might have considered before.

As hard as it may be for some that they will not get to have a normal school year, they do have options that they may not have considered in normal circumstances.

Yasmin Diallo Turk is a long-time Austinite, non-profit professional in the field of sexual and domestic violence, and graduate of both Huston-Tillotson University and the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas. When not writing for AG she should be writing her dissertation but is probably just watching Netflix with her husband and 3 kids or running volunteer projects for HOPE for Senegal.

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