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Paid Internships: Bridging the Gap from Classroom to Boardroom in Silicon Valley Video

In This Episode:

Silicon Valley faces an urgent paid internship gap. College students from underserved areas are sidelined, with only 43% of Black and 40% of Hispanic students gaining internship experience, compared to 56% of their white peers. Yet, with interns 82% more likely to secure full-time roles at their host companies, this disparity isn't just about internships—it's about the future of our workforce and widening wealth gaps. With white households holding median wealth almost eight times that of Black households, it's clear: bridging the internship divide isn't a choice; it's an imperative.

Paid Internship Imbalance in Silicon Valley:

  • The Discrepancy: While 56% of white college students land internships, only 43% of Black and 40% of Hispanic students do
  • Why It Matters: Interns have an 82% higher chance of getting a full-time job at their internship company.
  • Wealth Gap: White families typically have $188,200 in wealth. Black families have $24,100, and Hispanic families $61,800. The lack of equal internship opportunities contributes to deepening racial and wealth divides.

"Working for free is a luxury, a privilege not everyone can afford."

About Ittai Shiu:

Ittai Shiu is a digital marketing executive catering to interactive agencies and global brands. He is also a business consultant and advisor servicing organizations ranging from stealth startups to mature companies as they grow and scale. He has contributed to the success of B2B, B2C, and DTC businesses through his marketing and operational expertise. An instructor at UC Berkeley and a small-business advocate, Ittai is committed to supporting overlooked talent in underserved communities.

"Internships should be more than just work; they should be a paid, professionally relevant experience."

Show Notes:

  • What is LaunchPoint?
    • LaunchPoint is Itai's journey from ad tech to nonprofit founder. The organization aims to ensure equal opportunities for all recent graduates, addressing socioeconomic disparities.
  • Why LaunchPoint?
    • LaunchPoint's primary focus is on paid internships. They collaborate with host companies to create meaningful student experiences, emphasizing the importance of bridging the gap between academia and the professional world.
  • How does LaunchPoint support Students and Host Companies? 
    • LaunchPoint offers coaching and career advice to students while assisting host companies in developing structured internship programs. This dual approach ensures both students and companies benefit from the program.
  • How are Partners and Interns Selected? 
    • Host companies are chosen based on their willingness to collaborate and mentor interns. Meanwhile, students from underserved communities apply with writing samples to join the program, ensuring a rigorous selection process.
  • What is the Internship Experience like at LaunchPoint? 
    • Internships at LaunchPoint typically run for three to four months and include dedicated supervision and coaching. The program focuses on professional development, work plans, and regular feedback to ensure interns' success.
  • Why Promote Business Benefits with LaunchPoint? 
    • LaunchPoint goes beyond providing great interns and streamlines engagement with academic institutions. They promote diversity and unique perspectives in the workforce, benefiting businesses and society.
  • What Challenges does LaunchPoint Face? 
    • LaunchPoint faces growing pains as a new nonprofit, and there needs to be more clarity about immediate intern placement. Overcoming these challenges is an essential part of their journey.
  • How do you encourage the community served by LaunchPoint? 
    • LaunchPoint advises its community to encourage individuals to assume unlimited resources, break down problems, think big to overcome scarcity mindsets and focus on pragmatic solutions for a brighter future.

"We're not just creating internships; we're building launchpads for future careers."

Episode Transcription

Please tell us about the history of your organization, who you serve, and how it all began.

Yeah, absolutely. So, a little bit about myself. I spent 20 years in the ad tech industry. I became a consultant for startups and tech companies in the Bay Area. I am doing operations growth marketing. Recently, I started teaching at UC Berkeley's entrepreneurship program. All these things intersected and motivated me to do something I was passionate about: creating a nonprofit. LaunchPoint was founded on the notion that only some graduates are on equal footing upon graduation. So. getting accepted into and graduating from a four-year college program is a huge accomplishment, but it's also this inflection point where young people start their careers. And despite hard work, intelligence, and grit, some segments of the population need to be on equal footing due to socioeconomic demographic variables.


In college many years ago, I paid for an internship, learned a lot, and got a lot out of it. I was able to put it in my resume. I still reference it once in a while. But then, I realized I could do that early on. I could lean into my savings. I could ask for more help from my parents. And I realized that some individuals don't have that choice. Working for free is a luxury. It's a privilege. Students out there who need to work out of necessity. They will take these jobs to pay for books, food, and necessities, and often, these jobs don't contribute to professionally relevant skills. These students will tend to work more hours than their colleagues, and that will tend to lead to risks in grades, graduation rates, and, most specifically, upon graduation, they don't have, they have fewer professionally relevant skills that they can talk to, that they can point to. The mission of LaunchPoint is to ensure that every graduate, regardless of their circumstances, has access to those same opportunities at this kind of critical inflection point or this launch point of their career. 

Yeah, that would be our first sponsored intern. This story goes two ways because they've made a difference in the evolution and strategy of LaunchPoint. So, in your introduction, you described us accurately. We strive to establish and create high-quality, professionally relevant paid internships. The key word is paid. Every internship should go with a student getting some fair wage for the work they're putting into, adding value to the organization. So this will happen regardless of the company's circumstances as well. Then, for select opportunities, if the company is collaborative, shows a propensity to be engaging, and has a lot of potential for creating a tremendously scalable, repeatable internship program, LaunchPoint will sponsor an intern. I will support that there first. Intern so that they can develop some momentum around their internship program. So, teaching at UC Berkeley, I have the luxury of navigating through the campus and working with different departments, and I began working with the undocumented student program. Every university and college should have an undocumented students program. I worked with the one at UC Berkeley; they were doing great work. They introduced me to the segment of the student population that literally can't be W-2 employees. They need help to graduate and find a traditional job. Kind of contractors. How do we represent ourselves as a business, as an LLC, and as an entrepreneur? So, it's a whole other level of challenges, which I was surprised to find out I would have an impact on. So, our first sponsored intern, We paired up with a tremendous operational agency led by a female CEO who was undocumented when she was going through university, went on to go through Wall Street, and decided she didn't like Wall Street. Then, she wants to create her agency. So it's just a great story. of a host company we enjoy working with. You know, she didn't have a lot of extra budget to spend on paying an intern, but she had a lot of enthusiasm and energy. So we made this match, and initially, the way the payment works, I figured, okay, well, LaunchPoint will be a contractor. The intern would be a subcontractor, and the intern and the host company would focus on the work and working towards their objectives. The company doesn't have to worry about money. The intern invoices LaunchPoint, and I'll ensure the intern gets paid. During this time, there was a lot of training around. Hours and an invoicing and, you know, tax exposure, all these things that were an exciting conversation for this new, this young intern to be exposed to. You know, ultimately, this program was a success. You see, she spent four months contributing to this business. She's gone on to get accepted into this fellowship and has these requests for agents to start a social media agency because it was such a confidence-boosting experience. So while I'd like to think LaunchPoint taught her and gave her the confidence to do that, this experience gave LaunchPoint the confidence to go out and seek out those opportunities and, with confidence, help, you know, young, fledgling, scrappy companies of the student body that may not have the chance to be W-2 employees and need to think about how do we make money as a contractor or as an entrepreneur.