By: Andrew Valenti, Reporter November 6, 2020
A local businessman is developing a nonprofit organization to secure multiyear internships for Black college students in the New Orleans area.
Perry Sholes, president of human resources firm Progressive HR Strategies, is launching the Corporate Internship Leadership Institute. The goal, Sholes said, is that these internships will turn into permanent employment opportunities for the students after college and in turn decrease underemployment rates for students of color.
According to nonprofit think tank the Economic Policy Institute, Black workers are twice as likely to be unemployed as white workers overall (6.4% vs. 3.1%), and Black workers with a college degree are more likely to be unemployed than similarly educated white workers (3.5% vs. 2.2%). While employed, Black workers with a college or advanced degree are more likely than their white counterparts to be underemployed when it comes to their skill level. Almost 40% are in a job that typically does not require a college degree, compared with 31% of white college grads.
Sholes said the idea has been in the works since late 2018, and the first cohort of interns is set to enter the program next summer.
Home Bank has given verbal confirmation to be a community partner and has provided a monetary contribution to the organization. Sholes said he’s spoken to businesses in the tourism and hospitality, health care, manufacturing and information technology sectors about providing internship opportunities through the program.
College Track has also committed to being a community partner.
“While the tourism and hospitality industry is already well developed here, we’re really targeting other sectors that we think will transform the region so we’re less reliant on tourism and hospitality and more diverse,” he said.
Sholes said he’s received interest from Dillard University, Tulane University, Loyola University and the University of New Orleans. There would also be a focus on students of color at technical colleges and New Orleans-area students who left the area.
“The companies don’t all have to be in New Orleans,” he said. It’s really targeted for the region, so I’ve had conversations with companies in Houma, Covington and Mandeville.”