Paid internships a road out of recession?

AKA desperate recent grad.


That’s how Tayler Anderson signed off her email to us last fall.

She was a new college graduate who, like so many other young adults in this recession, couldn’t find work in her chosen field. She was working part-time at a Bath and Body Works to pay the bills.

This morning, Tayler’s mom emailed with some good news: Tayler found a way to earn some money and get a foothold on her career. The graphic design major snagged a paid internship with Columbia Sportswear.

Celia Gust told us her daughter’s leading a fabric design effort for baby and girls clothing at Columbia. “It’s not typical that an intern would be made the lead designer, but Tayler has gotten rave reviews for her work from management.”

It is an internship, of course. It comes with minimal pay and no benefits, but “at least it’s full time,” Celia Gust said. “There is the hope and promise that it will convert into a ‘real’ job at the end of the internship in September. ”

Tayler’s story has us wondering if the paid internship is taking on a vital role for new grads in this recession — a bridge to the recovering economy.

We ran across this intriguing data from the job site


While “paid internship” is still a relatively small part of its offerings, it notes that listings for paid internships are up 141 percent since August 2008.

4/27 UPDATE: says its jobs database consists of about three million U.S. job listings, so the .06% of matching jobs on the chart translates to about 1,800 paid internship offers at the end of February.

We tend to think of internships, even paid ones, as a nice add-on to a resume or a way to pick up some extra money. But maybe the Great Recession is restructuring the path between college and the workforce.

We’re following up with and some other places to see if Tayler’s experience is becoming more the norm.

If you have some thoughts on this, drop us a line.

“You can imaging how proud of her I am,” said Celia Gust, a source in MPR’s Public Insight Network. “Let’s just hope this all translates into something permanent.”

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