Shining a Light on Internship Shortages and Building With Our Students in Mind

This comes as no surprise to you, our community, but 2020 was a bad year for internships. Unable to keep up with new demands, many companies cut their internship programs at the onset of COVID-19 restrictions. Over a year later, we see that students are still reckoning with a shortage of opportunity. Experience is hard to get and hard to find. Even as companies have pivoted to remote working environments, internships haven’t kept pace. The skills gap is widening, which is why we’re writing about the internship shortage, hoping to bring awareness through posts like this, and also working to provide new alternatives. 

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Internship opportunities declined due to COVID-19.

In our Spring 2020 MLH Hacker Census, we saw that twenty percent of our community reported losing a job or internship due to COVID-19 in the Spring of 2020. Twenty-six percent report being unable to find an internship as a result. We project that this segment of affected students represents around 40,000 to 50,000 students in total. That’s too many.

This data falls in line with Indeed’s reporting that internship postings per million on their job postings on their website were down 39% from 2019 in 2020, according to an article in Forbes. What worse is that year later, not much has changed. 

When COVID-19 restrictions went into effect, companies quickly moved to remote working environments. Transitioning core business teams and issuing updated workplace policies were a priority—this put managing and transitioning internships to a remote-first environment at the bottom of the priority list. In addition, seasoned employees, who often run internship programs and mentor young talent, were at a breaking point. We all were. 

We’re empathetic to full-time professionals. You can’t mentor a young intern while you’re trying to put on your own gas mask (and maybe your child’s, too). The challenge is real.

Our corporate partners clued us into the internal dilemma in April 2020. In no fewer words, they said: We’re seeing internships get cancelled left and right, which directly affects the tech pipeline in the next 12 months. 


A shortage of internships persists. 

A year later, despite a sense of reopening, offices are still largely closed, and challenges persist. 

Companies have yet to fully reopen their headquarters in places like New York and San Francisco. In fact, companies like Google never plan to. Instead, Google recently announced that 20 percent of their workforce will stay remote, while 60 percent will be hybrid, according to the Boston Globe. Additionally, Upwork predicts that “1 in 4 Americans will be working remotely in 2021, according to their Future of Workforce Pulse Report released in December 2020.

The challenge around facilitating remote student internships isn’t going away, which presents an added layer of difficulty for our student job seekers.

Yet, at the organizational level, there’s still a skills gap. Even in 2020, when unemployment skyrocketed, attracting and keeping top talent remained the biggest human capital challenge organizations are facing, according to PwC’s HR Technology Survey 2020. Seventy-four percent of companies surveyed planned to increase spending on HR tech in 2020 to address pressing talent needs.

Internship opportunities have dropped, but the demand for talent has increased along with the number of students looking for experience. Why? Put simply, internships are cumbersome to run. 

As hackers and builders, these are the problems we can take on together.

Closing the skills gap starts with internships.

This gap and the empathy for the humans on both sides is why we launched the MLH Fellowship. To us, the real challenge, the root of this long-standing issue, is around making it easier for overburdened companies and internal employees to spin up effective internship programs quickly and efficiently. 

COVID-19 exacerbated a disparity that already existed: students need professional experience. Most companies and employees want to mentor young talent but lack time to do so effectively. So, we aim to make bringing on early-career developers as easy as possible. 

We connect our partners to the world’s largest and most diverse pool of tech’s rising talent and then screen, onboard, and mentor Fellows while they work on real-world projects. This process moves even more seamlessly when partners have invested in open source software. We can do almost all of the work around onboarding, mentoring, and evaluation for hire without much time from the corporate side. 

This is our call to action for tech companies: come talk to us. We want to help you, and we get to help an amazing community of young, talented technical students while we do it.


We built the MLH Fellowship for our community and companies in need.

We’re thrilled by the potential for this program to expand access to internships. We’re hoping that if we can provide an “internship-program-in-a-box” service if you will, that more companies will say yes to mentoring young talent. 

Our community is incredibly global. We’re two times more gender diverse than a computer science classroom (41% of our community identifies as non-male). We help top companies find great talent and great employees outside of the Ivy League pipeline. And we’ve worked with companies like Facebook and GitHub.

“What started as a targeted initiative to address the global need for tech internships last summer has quickly become one of the most exciting and impactful partnerships that Facebook Open Source is currently investing in. Open source has always held the promise of building inclusive communities around technology. We think that the MLH Fellowship has the potential to make meaningful progress in fulfilling that promise by helping to empower developers from all around the world from diverse backgrounds. Facebook has been a strong supporter of this mission through our partnership with MLH on the Year-Long Fellowship Program and the Black Diversity Scholarship, and we’re thrilled to see the fellowship continue to grow.” – Kathy Kam, Head of Open Source, Facebook.


Let’s solve this together.

So for the students reading this, share the message. Let’s get the word out that there’s a skills gap just waiting to be solved. 

And if you’re in a full-time role, we’d be eager to connect. Are you interested in a more diverse, efficient, and productive junior talent program? Reach out here

Interested in applying? Here’s your link.  



All data comes from a survey sent to Major League Hacking’s active 2020-2021 community of 125,000 developers where there were 6,561 respondents. With data integrity in mind, we shared only significant findings as determined by a standard 95% confidence level and 1% margin of error, meaning that “the difference between two groups has less than a 1% probability of occurring by chance or sampling error alone, which is often displayed as p < 0.01.