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Virtual Internships, Innovation, Adaptability: Advice for Young People Dealing with Unemployment During Coronavirus Crisis in CT

As businesses start to slowly reopen, owners will start to reassess their staffing needs. "That does not bode well in particular for the youth in the economy," said University of New Haven professor Marks.

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As the coronavirus crisis has issued a crushing blow to our country’s economy, young people make up one of the demographics dealing with devastating unemployment numbers.

University of New Haven professor Brian Marks said innovation is key for recent graduates and students to grasp as they navigate this lackluster job market.

“I’m cautiously optimistic -- one, for small businesses. That’s our engine of innovation, but the economy and our supply chain we will be forever transformed,” said Marks, who is the executive director of the university’s Entrepreneurship & Innovation Program and a senior lecturer for the Department of Economics and Business Analytics.

Marks said as businesses start to slowly reopen, owners will start to reassess their staffing needs, which he said doesn’t bode well for young folks.

"This is insult to injury for those who are on the lower end of the compensation scale," he said.

His advice moving forward, “I constantly advise my students, even before COVID19, you may major in something, but add a minor, add something to complement your skill set,” he said.

The CT Department of Labor initial claims data says the accommodation and food service industry has been hit the hardest by unemployment and people 20 to 29 years-old were more likely to claim benefits.

“A bunch of people, including myself, were kind of searching for jobs this summer. Kind of struggling to find something,” said Shannon Luker of Glastonbury.

Luker, a soon-to-be junior at Quinnipiac University, said life has been stressful for her and her peers, especially recent graduates, looking for jobs.

“My original plan this summer was to get an internship out of LA out of my school, but that had to be canceled,” she said.

Luker is grateful she found an internship through the state of Connecticut, and it will be a virtual one.

Amidst social distancing concerns, some companies, like CVS Health, have had to pivot quickly to create a virtual format.

The company will be taking on 100 summer interns in the Hartford area.

“Many folks have had to cancel their programs, but we didn’t even have to think twice about that. That was never an option for us,” said Vice President of Talent Acquisition for CVS Health Jeff Lackey. “They’re the future leaders of CVS Health.”

As state leaders work to stop the spread of coronavirus, Marks said he’s been impressed with the tenacity of his students despite the dire circumstances.

“We’ve all learned innovation, like through this time, working with different technology, like Zoom for classes and people doing remote work,” said Luker.

Professor Marks said, despite potential permanent change within industries, he believes Connecticut might be in a better position than other states because we’ve already had to react to the blow of some big firms leaving our state before coronavirus was even a concern.

Once again, he stresses the importance of workers’ resiliency and adaptability.

"This is not simply flipping a switch and everything, and the lights go back on," he said as businesses slowly open in phases in Connecticut.

" I can say cautiously one of the reasons it won’t take as long as the Great Recession, this economic crisis is derived from a public health crisis that’s what makes this different, he added."

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