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Silicon Alley: Sinking Internships

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As legions of twentysomething liberal-arts graduates retreat from failing dot-coms to more stable career paths, who will run the high-tech companies of the future? Local tech nonprofit mouse (Making Opportunities for Upgrading Schools and Education) has one answer: It's gearing up for the second year of its semester-long New Media Internship Program for high-schoolers. The only problem is that some Alley companies are worried about whether they'll even be able to afford an intern.

"A lot of companies are relatively uncertain where they're going to be in the summer, so it's really difficult for them to make a commitment and guarantee that they can sponsor an intern," says mouse deputy director Calvin Hastings, who is now looking to expand the program to traditional companies with new-media divisions.

The program, which starts January 24, takes two dozen carefully selected, tech-savvy public-school juniors through six months of "job readiness" workshops, including résumé writing, interviewing skills, and workplace etiquette. The training culminates in -- what else? -- a networking party, where the interns mingle and pitch themselves for six-week paid summer internships. Companies that have already committed include kpe, Vindigo, and K2Digital. "We try to create a certain degree of competition for the best positions," says Hastings. "A big part of this is taking kids who are really talented, who have a lot of skills, and exposing them to the business world."

Compared with last year, they might get a harsh dose of reality. "These are kids who need to work during the summer, and they need to get paid," says Hastings. "But it's difficult at this point in the year for companies to create a line item for a paid intern when they're laying people off."


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