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  • Composition of Intern, Co-op Cohorts Show Employer DEI Efforts Are Falling Short

    BETHLEHEM, PA—There is a disconnect between intern and co-op cohorts and employer diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts, according to a new report from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE).

    NACE’s 2021 Internship & Co-op Survey Report indicates that, overall, men account for the majority of interns (57.6%) and co-ops (67.5%), and the majority of college students taking part in these experiences are white (62.0% of interns and 71% of co-ops). (See Figures 1 and 2)

    “Through our research, employers have consistently reported that a diverse and inclusive workforce is a strategic priority,” says Shawn VanDerziel, NACE Executive Director.

    “However, their internship and co-op programs, which are largely focused on feeding full-time hiring, do not appear to be aligned with that priority.”

    The next most highly represented groups of interns and co-ops by race/ethnicity are Asian-American (13.9% of interns and 8.1% of co-ops) and African-American (8.2% of interns and 8.1% of co-ops) students.

    The 2021 Internship & Co-op Survey Report also found low percentages of interns and co-ops among self-reported demographic groups. While nearly 10% of co-ops self-reported as members of the LGBTQ+ community, the percentages of LGBTQ+ interns and interns and co-ops who self-reported as veterans and students with disabilities were all lower than 5%. (See Figure 3.)

    Findings about race/ethnicity and gender in the 2021 Internship & Co-op Survey Report are consistent with results of a NACE student survey that found marginalized groups were underrepresented in paid internships. For example, Black students accounted for 6.6 percent of the nearly 4,000 participating graduating seniors, but just 6.0 percent of the paid internships went to Black students; at the same time, they accounted for 7.3 percent of unpaid internships—meaning they are underrepresented as paid interns and overrepresented as unpaid interns.

    Figure 1

    Figure 2

    Figure 3

    About NACE’s 2021 Internship & Co-op Survey Report: The 2021 Internship & Co-op Survey Report explores key aspects of employers’ internship and co-op programs, including hiring projections, conversion and retention rates, compensation data (wages and benefits), recruiting strategies, and information about program structure. This report also includes historical analyses of the data. Data collection took place from December 9, 2020, to February 5, 2021. There were 227 NACE member respondents, representing 25.7% of eligible member respondents. The survey was also distributed to nonmember companies from which an additional 39 responses were received. An executive summary of NACE’s 2021 Internship & Co-op Survey Report is available on NACEWeb.

    About NACE: Since 1956, the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) has been the leading source of information about the employment of college graduates. For more information, visit www.naceweb.org. NACE maintains a virtual press room for the media.


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