06/04/2013 05:21 pm ET Updated Aug 04, 2013

Did Technology Just Control, Alt, and Delete Your Internship?

What are internships?
According to, an internship is on the job training for white collar and professional careers and is similar to apprenticeships for trade and vocational jobs. Interns are typically college or university students. They can also be high school students or post-graduate adults. Internships may be paid or unpaid, and are usually understood to be temporary positions for a summer or set period of time.

Generally, an internship consists of an exchange of services for experience between the student and an organization. Students often use the internship to help them determine if they have an interest in a particular career, help develop a network of contacts, or gain school credit.

Internships often lead to paid employment with the organizations with which they interned. This can be a significant benefit to the employer as experienced interns often need little or no training when they begin regular employment and are already vetted for cultural fit.

2013 intern job prospects unclear:
In March 2013, the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) survey, noted that employers expected to hire more college students for summer internships this year. The survey revealed they anticipated hiring 8.5% more this year than last -- and nearly all expected to pay their interns. However in a follow up survey in April 2013, NACE reported that businesses plan to hire only 2.1% more college graduates from the class of 2013 then they did from the class of 2012, citing the graduates' poor training in science and math.

Intern jobs past and present:
Many of us might recall intern and part time jobs that we had over the summer that helped us find permanent work. The jobs would range from working in an office doing various administrative tasks, to phone positions for marketing or political polling firms or political campaigns; gopher activities for finance industries such as bookkeeping, brokerage or accounting firms; in the state and local community as a public service worker reading meters, or in the local library as a library assistant. However many of these positions that created intern and entry level position opportunities for high school and college graduates have been replaced by technology.

Office workers:
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the U.S., more than 1.1 million secretaries vanished from the job market between 2000 and 2010. Over the same period the number of telephone operators plunged by 64%, word processors and typists by 63%, travel agents by 46% and bookkeepers by 26%. Many rote and routine jobs have been replaced with automated systems leaving typical past office internships opportunities in the waste bucket.

Virtual agents will replace call center workers:
According to, a virtual agent is a chatterbot (simulates human chatter online) program that is an online customer service representative for an organization. Many virtual agents resemble humans and respond appropriately to customer questions. They lend automated interactions a semblance of personal service. Many virtual agents are used on retail, airline and service sites to help people perform tasks such as locating information, placing orders and making reservations. In fact, techtarget notes that many people prefer virtual agents over talking to people.

Finance clerks:
As software and cloud technologies increase and improve, financial services are also fast becoming increasingly reliant on advances in technology to replace rote activities previously done by employees or interns. For example, bookkeeping has been replaced by Quickbooks and other software programs. Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) applications that handle and integrate all of a firm's transactions in one package and stocking trading have been replaced by automated systems.

The meter reader:
According to, automatic meter reading, or AMR, is the technology of automatically collecting consumption, diagnostic, and status data from water, gas and electric devices. The data is collected and transferred for analysis, billing, and troubleshooting to a central location. This technology reduces the need for personnel to visit meters, as well as to increase real-time consumption analysis.

Library assistant:
With the advent of electronic books, search tools, mobile devices, bar coding systems and the internet, many predict that the digital age will change the concept of libraries and eliminate some library personnel such as catalogers, reference help, and check-out help.

Intern solutions:
With reduced demand for interns combined with the elimination of jobs by technology, the prospects for interns might seem dismal. However many innovative students and job seekers will creatively think of ways to create unique and different approaches to developing summer internships that range from cold calling prospective employers, pursing a portfolio of part time jobs through temp agencies, volunteering, freelancing or entrepreneurship.

Dr. Tracey Wilen-Daugenti is a leading though leader on career development. She is the author of ten books, a regular media contributor, and global speaker. She is a key advisor for recruiting and outplacement firms. Her most recent book is Women Lead: Career Perspectives from Workplace Leaders. Tracey is a visiting scholar at Stanford University Media X program, researching the impact of technology on future careers.