Wells Fargo Bank has made a $75,000 investment in GardHouse, a Charlotte-based nonprofit that connects minority college students with paid internships at small businesses and nonprofits to build job experience.
The internships at GardHouse typically last four months and run concurrent to a student’s academic semester. GardHouse was founded in 2019 by Jonathan Gardner to address the fact that students of color graduating college are twice as likely to be unemployed as White students. Gardner wanted to help college students in Charlotte begin building their professional networks while gaining work experience.
“The job market is hot for people who have experience,” Gardner told BizJournals. “You don’t have that coming out of college. For a lot of employers, yes, there’s onboarding and training, but there’s additional care that’s needed.”
GardHouse currently has more than 200 interns in its network and is working with more than 120 small businesses and nonprofits in Charlotte. The funding from Wells Fargo and others will help GardHouse pay its working interns $20.83 an hour for 15 hours per week during a semester. GardHouse hopes to add 40 more interns this year.
Small businesses must have revenue under $500,000 to have the intern paid by GardHouse and gain the student’s services for free. Businesses with revenues over $500,000 pay the interns themselves, freeing funding to other small businesses who need it.
Many minority college students leave college without a job, leaving them scrambling to find one before they can begin their professional careers. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has kept people out of offices for most of the last two years, meaning recent college graduates have had limited opportunities to gain work experience before graduating.
However, the pandemic also led to more open positions than ever, a rise in salaries not seen in years, and better pay and benefits for employees in multiple industries.
GardHouse also provides one-on-one coaching throughout the internships, focusing on eight behaviors that every graduating senior should have: critical thinking, teamwork, communication, technology, equity and inclusion, professionalism, and career and self-development.