Are Summer Internships Ruined Because of COVID-19?

Are Summer Internships Ruined Because of COVID-19?

By Tricia O'Connor

Internships are a rite of passage for many career hopefuls. These hands-on, in-person gigs provide job candidates – many of whom are still in college – insight into a particular career field, company, or work environment.

Since internships are often free, or low wage positions, employers get the additional benefits of reduced rate labor and a no-commitment opportunity to measure how an intern would perform as a full-time employee.

COVID-19, however, has thrown many summer internship programs into the air. This week we’re focusing on how this pandemic is affecting Generation Z. So let’s find out if summer internships are ruined because of the cororavirus.

A Summer Tradition 

The summer internship is a summer tradition for college students. They devote roughly 10-12 weeks to a business hoping that if they perform well, they will receive a job offer contingent upon graduating. Spring is when many of these college students begin securing their summer internships.

This year’s crop of college students hails from Generation Z – people born after 1997. They were born into chaos in a post 9/11 world and unfortunately, are entering adulthood in the middle of a global health crisis. The world economy is shuddering, the U.S. job market is shrinking, and with these changes, the summer internship is trying to adapt. 

The National Association of Colleges and Employers recently conducted a poll and found these alarming insights:

  • Mid-March: 90% of responding employers expected to maintain their internship programs without change
  • Final week in March: that number dropped to 74%
  • First week of April: only 35% reported moving forward with on-site internships

It is accurate to conclude summer internships are facing dramatic challenges, but the good news is many employers are adapting their programs so interns and businesses alike can still take advantage of the benefits.

ICYMI: New to Remote Work? Here’s Four Tips to Help Your Transition.

The Virtual Internship

Employers who are not canceling, delaying, or shortening their internship program, have instead announced efforts to move to virtual internships. A poll conducted by the Society of Human Resource Management shows nearly 70% of respondents are changing their internship programs to online or virtual because of COVID-19.

A virtual or online internship is similar to a regular internship with one major exception – it’s performed remotely. Interns have the comfort and freedom of working from home (no commute!), but still complete many of the same aspects of a traditional in-person internship. There are already companies devoted to connecting hopeful interns with virtual internships, even on a global scale!

Virtual internships are a tough sell for some companies. They may feel it’s difficult to train interns, involve them in culture, and provide meaningful oversight and feedback. Not to mention that many human resources departments are already strapped from the coronavirus response and may not have the time to re-think their company’s internship program.

For businesses who have embraced the online internship, they may be able to tap into one huge advantage of working with Generation Z – they are the most technologically-savvy crop of workers who has ever existed. This generation of people has grown up with computers, the internet, and the proliferation of digital tools which makes them fast and flexible learners in a remote setting.

Make the Most Out of Your Internship 

The benefits of completing an online internship include:

  • Remote work skills
  • Time management
  • Accessibility (removes physical or financial barriers)
  • Global Connections
  • Academic credit

Although Generation Z is ideally suited for virtual internships because of their baseline technology knowledge, they still need transparent goals, priorities, and timelines communicated from supervisors. These are the hallmarks of any successful internship program and a virtual internship is no exception.

Managers and supervisors should still have daily or weekly videoconference check-ins with interns. These check-ins will help interns make sure they understand their roles and responsibilities, provide an opportunity for questions, and give them insight into how managers – even during a remote deployment – interact and lead their teams.

Managers should also focus on the specific requirements interns need to meet for specific projects. Unlike an office setting where an intern is more likely to freely observe and interact with colleagues, and thereby absorb information, remote assignments require more guidelines. Generation Z is wildly creative, but they still crave boundaries in which to be successful.

Finally, businesses should find creative ways for interns to still learn about and participate in company culture initiatives. Perhaps there is a social committee, book club, or community outreach team an intern can join remotely. EBI utilizes all these initiatives and it has certainly kept us all closer during COVID-19 even though we’re not co-located.   

EBI is Here

As this new COVID-19 work environment evolves, we are learning how to evolve with it. Generation Z will continue to lean on us to help them navigate their place in this job market. Maintaining and adapting internship programs is one way we can continue to give them hope there will be a job for them when this pandemic is over. In turn, businesses may find a new way to engage more interns, even from afar.

EBI will continue to keep you updated on hiring evolutions throughout this health crisis, and beyond. It is our goal to remain as transparent and proactive as possible. Please reach out to us with any questions you may have. 

Get to know EBI and speak with one of our experts.

About the Author

Tricia O'Connor

Tricia O'Connor

Writer. Digital marketer. Storyteller. An award-winning writer and editor, Tricia O'Connor is the Marketing Content Manager at EBI. Tricia worked as a broadcast and print journalist for nearly two decades writing and producing programming for high-profile networks like ESPN Radio, History Channel, and Hallmark Channel, as well as contributing editorial work to publications nationwide. Tricia joined the EBI marketing team in 2019 and is responsible for content strategy, development, and engagement. Tricia earned a master's degree in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and is a proud undergraduate alumna of Wheaton College in Massachusetts.

Learn More About Sterling