University of San Diego program helping unpaid interns get cash

Posted at 5:26 PM, Jul 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-09 13:01:21-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Laura Bolt’s plans for a summer abroad in Austria came to a screeching halt because of the coronavirus.

“Of course I'm super disappointed that I wasn't able to go,” she said.

Bolt is majoring in physics at the University of San Diego. She suddenly had an empty summer schedule.

“I figured I needed to do something productive with myself, and so I started applying like crazy,” she said.

Bolt landed an internship with MakeSAFE Tools, a San Diego manufacturer of devices that allow emergency stops on construction equipment in the home and in the field.

Sales at the company, however, are down 60% to 70% since March.

“If you're going to get a really solid intern, they've still got to do something for money, and we're not in a place that makes sense for paying interns, but we can provide really authentic experiences,” said Scott Swaaley, founder of MakeSAFE Tools.

Bolt found a different way to get paid. She turned to the USD Career Center, which, through private donations, offers stipends to interns who demonstrate that they have a real learning opportunity at hand but will incur expenses.

They can be granted between $500 and $5,000. The university divvied up $180,000 to 80 students this summer.

“The goal is not to cover salary, we’re not there to help a company get free labor,” said Robin Darmon, senior director at the USD Career Development Center. “This is actually going to put (the student) on a test drive course towards career goals.”

Now, Bolt is doing does a bit of everything at MakeSAFE Tools - she codes, does web design, technical writing and even participates in meeting with customers — all from the comfort of her own home.