The tech talent gap is wide, with a projected one million open computer science-related jobs by 2020. That’s exacerbated in Atlanta by the southern brain drain — many of the most talented graduates still leave to pursue their dreams in Silicon Valley and elsewhere.
To counteract the perspective that you need to leave Atlanta to join a high-growth, entrepreneurial company, and to help startups gain access to highly-coveted talent, the city of Atlanta is launching a program to subsidize student internships.
Students2Startups, a program of Invest Atlanta and Workforce Atlanta, will pay two-thirds of the cost of an intern for eligible Atlanta-based startups. The program will begin with 18 students and 18 startups this summer, with the goal of matching 75 students and startups by 2020.
“At Invest Atlanta, we’re building a toolkit of resources that help companies grow and scale in Atlanta — focusing on the tech talent pipeline, access to customers and funding,” explains Noelle London, Invest Atlanta’s Manager of Innovation and Entrepreneurship. “When it comes to expanding our tech talent pipeline, we noticed that both the supply and demand side were facing challenges.”
Often startups will employ interns on an unpaid basis, or in exchange for perks, to lower their personnel costs. However, many students can’t afford to give up a summer for an unpaid opportunity.
“This means they may choose traditional career paths and miss the chance to experience what it’s like to work for a startup company,” says London.
“Becoming an entrepreneur shouldn’t depend on whether you can afford to take that unpaid internship. If you’ve got the DNA to be a great entrepreneur, such as creativity, problem-solving, adaptability, perseverance, we want to make sure you’ve got a shot at it.”
The Students2Startups program partners were chosen specifically for their expertise in the issues they are trying to tackle — tech talent and startup resources. Worksource Atlanta, formally the Atlanta Workforce Development Agency, provides programs to grow sustainable employment pipelines in the city such as vocational training, GED preparation and job leads; while Startup Atlanta connects young companies with the resources and opportunities they need.
Now they will begin identifying the first startups and students that will benefit from the program this summer. The students will work 35 hours per week for three months at the rate of $15 an hour, with Students2Startups paying $10 of that hourly wage.
Any student at an Atlanta four-year university can apply for the program. In addition to the internship, they’ll participate in ChooseATL’s After 5 intern program and a Startup Atlanta lunch and learn series.
London says they are identifying startups that can invest “significant energy” in mentoring their matched intern, along with being able to provide them a wide range of experiences. Those companies can apply now as well.
“We want and expect to learn about talent retention from this program,” says London. “We’ll be tracking the jobs of the students that participate in the program over time. If you expose students to entrepreneurship in the program, do we find more entrepreneurs or tech talent in Atlanta? This is a question we want to begin to understand through Students2Startups.”