BrookLynk: Socially Distant Summer Internships

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The busiest time of the year for BrookLynk is unquestionably summer.

That’s when about 120 young people who’ve completed Get Ready! training move from learning about the workforce to actually entering the workforce. Come June, 20+ employers across Brooklyn Park and Brooklyn Center welcome these students into their businesses for hands-on, real world paid internship experiences.

“When crisis hits, you don’t cancel, you respond,” declared Catrice O’Neal, BrookLynk program manager, recalling how BrookLynk quickly reformulated summer internships in light of COVID-19.

“All of our employer partners are really committed to creating equitable career opportunities for youth and young adults,” she explained. “It was also a huge concern that these young people could loose summer income that is essential to their families.”

That meant “no” was not an option. So BrookLynk offered employer partners three other options for internships this summer:

Maintain the traditional internship as planned, with a PPE (personal protective equipment) plan provided by the employer. A hybrid internship, which took place partly in-person and partly online. If they could no longer commit to option 1 or 2, employers could provide a stipend and sponsor an intensive 6-week online learning opportunity for a young person.

Seven employer partners stepped up to offer in-person or hybrid internships (options 1 and 2) for 40 young people. Another four employer partners funded stipends to allow more than 80 young people to participate in a 6-week online training (option 3.)

The only problem? That 6-week online internship didn’t exist yet. “We learned with Get Ready! that putting information online was really effective, reflected Catrice.

So the three-person team at BrookLynk did it again, this time developing an online training series that covers a dizzying array of workforce development topics through a youth and equity lens — strength finder activities to help develop a professional identity, resume and cover letter writing, workshops on LinkedIn, interviewing and networking, discussions on ethical decision-making and code switching, a “manufacturing 101” seminar, college planning session and a year-end celebration.

Young people who complete the online summer internship receive “a stipend, a certificate of completion, one-on-one job coaching and a completed resume,” according to Catrice. Not to mention a whole bunch of life skills!

“This has really forced us to reimagine access and equity in afterschool,” reflected Catrice. “I feel really excited and motivated to continue to find ways to close those gaps.”