RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
A Hollywood movie opens today, set in the competitive and usually lowly paid world of interns. "The Internship" follows two 40-year-old, down-on-their-luck watch salesmen, played by Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson. They land an unlikely summer internship at Google, where they have to compete for a full-time gig. NPR's Steve Henn brings us this report about what the more than 1,000 new real Google interns, or Nooglers, are up to as they arrive at the company's campuses around the country.
STEVE HENN, BYLINE: Software engineering interns at Google earn an average of $6,500 a month. So it's no wonder that Vince Vaughn's character in this film sees Google and an internship as salvation.
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE INTERNSHIP")
VINCE VAUGHAN: (as Billy) Nick, I got it. Google.
OWEN WILSON: (as Nick) You got us a job at Google.
VAUGHAN: (as Billy) Not a job-job. It's an interview for an internship that could lead to a job.
HENN: Google's ubiquitous free food, its campus volley ball court, and quirky culture are all on full display in the film. I sat through a screening in a room packed with real Google interns.
(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERS)
HENN: They sat cheering, many wearing brightly colored Google beanies. These actually people refer to each other as Nooglers - Google's corporate shorthand for new Googlers. And like Kyle Ewing who runs the global internship programs at Google, most seemed to like this movie's depiction of the company as the, kind of, brightly colored workplace nirvana.
KYLE EWING: I loved it.
HENN: In real life, Google's campus can feel a trip to Oz. Interns here are greeted with a scavenger hunt.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: And we get triple points if we can find a conference bike.
HENN: Do you know what a conference bike is?
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: I have no idea.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: We'll find out.
HENN: Google's campus is full of odd stuff like these conference bicycles. They're circular multi-person contraptions that pedal. Then there are self driving cars and the freaky glasses. But Ewing says it's not just perks, the gadgets and the gimmicks that draw applications.
EWING: Interns that we attract tend to want to tackle these giant crazy problems.
HENN: Each year, Google receives close to 40,000 applications for 1,500 internship slots.
EWING: We are attacking some of the smartest, talented, most creative minds out there.
HENN: But sorting through all these candidates can be tough.
CHASTITY WELLS: It's pretty challenging.
HENN: Chastity Wells is on Ewing's team.
WELLS: Our interns go through a really extensive process, interviewing. The application isn't too bad.
HENN: And if you are one of the lucky three or four percent of applicants to land an internship, the work is real.
RAYMONG BRAUN: As an intern I was actually in charge of determining the social media strategy for the film called "Life in a Day."
HENN: Raymong Braun was a marketing intern at YouTube. Today he's at YouTube full time. And each year, the vast majority of new graduate hires at Google make come directly from the internship program. Still, this company isn't completely cut off from the problems facing the rest of the world. Google - like many tech companies - struggles to hire a diverse engineering workforce.
EWING: It's our, sort of, audacious ambition to reflect our users - to reflect the make up of our users.
HENN: For years, though, Google has fought in court to prevent media organizations from gaining access to equal opportunity hiring data about the company. Ewing says Google's not ignoring this issue and is providing smaller educational internships.
EWING: We have other, you know, smaller intern programs focused on students maybe earlier in their college career. So there's the engineering practicum, the freshman engineering practicum. These are specifically targeted toward folks, again, historically under-represented.
HENN: The largest of these targeted internship programs at Google is called BOLD. Bold interns are not engineers and they are recruited for jobs in other parts of the company. And perhaps because of that, their salaries are on average a little more than half of what the engineering interns can make. Nonetheless, a summer gig at Google is not bad and the food still free. Steve Henn, NPR News, Silicon Valley. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.