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Companies May Be Cutting Back On IT Interns

The prospect is worrisome as fewer students pursue IT as a career.
Even as IT leaders stew about fewer U.S. students pursuing computer science, fewer employers are offering IT students summer internships and part-time jobs this year, according to a recent Web poll by the trade organization Computing Technology Industry Association, or CompTIA.

The poll reached 379 managers with responsibilities for IT hiring or for running internship programs. Of those, 70%--or 261-- said their companies' IT departments have summer internship programs. But of those companies that have IT internship programs, only 43% planned to hire summer interns this year.

Of those organizations that are hiring interns this summer, most will hire one or two interns; 16% plan to hire 10 or more interns for their IT departments. The internships include paid and volunteer programs, says a CompTIA spokesman.

The prospect of companies offering fewer internships is worrisome at a time when enrollments in computer science courses has fallen, and tech leaders such as Microsoft chairman Bill Gates are speaking out about the shortage of qualified U.S. IT workers.

The survey didn't ask why organizations weren't hiring summer IT interns this year. However, some schools districts in the country have cut back on funding internship programs for students in their localities, the spokesman says.

Scott Horan, a technology teacher at Eastern High School in Louisville, Ky., says he hasn't felt the pinch yet, and in fact it's doing better than some of the nine years the school has run its technology training and internship program. This summer, 36 students from the high school have landed IT jobs at local companies, including a gas company, insurance firm, and a graphics art shop that makes signs for businesses. In the summer of 2004, only 31 kids landed IT internships. In 2003 and 2002, fewer than 25 students were able to find IT internships.

The students, who have certification in skills such as help-desk support, computer repair, and networking, are paid $8 an hour by those employers as part of the school's training and internship program. "These kids have very good skills, and they are a bargain for these companies," says Horan.

In addition to those interns, he says, more than a dozen other Eastern High School students this summer are returning to higher-paying IT jobs that were summer internships in prior years. Many of the students that have participated in the school's internships in years past have gone on to study engineering and computer science at two- and four-year colleges, he says. "This is just the beginning of future engineering and technology careers for some of these kids," he says.

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