Redefining Pathways: Paid Internships and Public-Sector Labor Shortages
On-the-job training can serve as one way for states and localities to meet ongoing public- and private-sector labor shortages.
While internships are seen as the stuff of college students or high school seniors trying to get course credits, internships can provide necessary on-the-job training for underrepresented populations looking for work in the private and public sectors. In the public sector, on-the-job training programs such as the America Works partnership have served as a pipeline for potential employees in underserved or underrepresented communities to receive training that will help them meet the requirements for jobs they’re interested in but fall just short of qualifying for when applying. On-the-job training in the public sector aligns well with a renewed focus on skills-based hiring in the public sector, a shift that seeks to widen the hiring pool to fill the gap and bring in new workers to the public-sector workforce.
Government Work After the Pandemic
“Pay It Forward,” Ready to Work’s follow-up program, is a collaboration with the nonprofit Social Finance that places participants who completed that initial workplace education initiative into a six-week-long internship in a field related to their avenue of study or training. What stands out is the way that this program seeks to keep the job pipeline going, with a goal of moving people who’ve completed the first program into the second and, as a result, directly into the workforce through paid internships. While many of the employers tapped for the first round of the pilot program are in the private sector, there are currently plans to build out the program to health care and finance in addition to the city of San Antonio’s IT department, one of the employers in the pilot program as well as its host. Why is Social Finance doing all this? To make potential employees aware of what public-sector jobs can look like.
Introducing Prospects to Public Service
“As someone who is now increasingly working in the nonprofit and public sector, I think there are misconceptions about what these jobs look like, and in particular, what the career paths are,” says Matt Latimer, the director of Social Finance. “There are really great career paths within the public sector, but there’s less public knowledge about how to get and stay in those careers. And so, this internship is a way to get candidates in the door, not only to assess their capabilities, but also educate them on what the potential is within some of these kind of public-sector careers.”
“The most important thing that officials developing these internships should do is to really make sure that they're reaching out to a wide variety of potential audiences for this type of work program and not to limit themselves so that they can get enough people into the program to make it successful,” says Cara Woodson Welch, CEO of the Public Sector HR Association, “because you do need a large enough pool to really judge whether or not it's actually a successful program.” She notes that on-the-job programs are useful for bringing in people who are interested in certain kinds of jobs, but who lack skills or licenses to even apply for those jobs, describing on-the-job training programs as “just that little bit of help to really get the leg up and get in the door.”