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FCC Launches Internship Diversity Initiative

(Image credit: FCC)

WASHINGTON—Recognizing that unpaid internships may disadvantage qualified minority students, the FCC is launching a paid internship program to "advance equitable opportunities for underrepresented undergraduate, graduate, and law school students."

The Early Career Staff Diversity Initiative is a joint effort by FCC chairman Ajit Pai and Democratic commissioner Geoffrey Starks.

The FCC has been offering unpaid internships for several years, which could exclude otherwise qualified candidates who can't afford to front the costs of travel and expenses, including those from "underrepresented communities."

"Because the communications sector impacts every American’s ability to access affordable and reliable communications, its employees should reflect our country’s diversity," the FCC said in announcing the new program.

As part of the program, beginning in January, the FCC will:

1. "provide a select number of paid internships to law, graduate, or undergraduate students each semester and summer, 

2. "invest additional resources to recruit students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Hispanic Serving Institutions, Tribal Colleges and Universities, and other Minority Serving Institutions" for the FCC's internship, attorney honors, and honors engineering programs, and 

3. increase recruitment from chapters of the National Black Law Students Association and the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers.

The goal is to increase FCC staff diversity as well as diversity in the communications sector.

“For far too many students, traveling to and living in Washington to work an unpaid internship is simply financially out of reach,” said Starks. “Because my office deeply values the internship program, I brought a plan to chairman Pai to ensure all students, no matter their income, can contribute to our agency through a paid internship program..."I am thrilled that we will be devoting more resources to increase recruitment from HBCUs and other Minority Serving Institutions for our internship, attorney honors, and honors engineering programs."

"Everyone should be able to benefit from internships at the Commission," said Pai. "Aside from the job itself, an internship can create career opportunities down the road, both at the FCC and elsewhere. Establishing a paid internship program will help students who would otherwise have to forego an internship due to financial constraints. And targeted outreach will ensure that more students from diverse backgrounds can participate, which benefits the FCC and the communications sector as a whole. I want to thank commissioner Starks for his leadership on this initiative."

Maurita Coley, president of The Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council (MMTC), applauded the new program. "We are pleased to support the FCC in this laudatory, bipartisan effort to help address diversity challenges in the media, tech and telecom sectors," Cooley said. "Having trained dozens of lawyers, law students and policy professionals through our fellowship programs since opening our doors in 1986, MMTC is proud to commend chairman Ajit Pai and commissioner Geoffrey Starks for designing and implementing this new FCC initiative. I’m particularly heartened that the initiative will provide paid internships, so that cost is not a barrier to participation; and that this initiative includes specific outreach to MSIs and HBCUs."