3 ways that essential businesses can adapt their internship programs when remote work isn’t feasible

Posted April 09, 2020 by

Although some employers have shut down due to Covid-19 and are struggling to determine how to adapt their internship programs to provide a meaningful experience to both the candidate and employer, other employers have been classified as essential, are open, and yet are also struggling with the same issue.

Do they continue with their internship program as is, meaning that students will need to come to the office and work there? Or do those employers have some employees work remotely and only require those who must physically be present to come to the office, manufacturing plant, or wherever the work is done?

Plenty of attention has been paid to employers like College Recruiter which are not deemed essential as we’re not a hospital, grocery store, or other organization that delivers products and services that people need right now to survive. But what about those employers like hospitals and grocery stores who are essential and open? Just because the employer is open for business does not mean that they can deliver the same internship experience as they had planned and, if they can’t, do they rescind their offers of employment to the students? Do they adapt their program? Or something else?

We have three suggestions:

  1. Do transition to a virtual internship even if it comprises the internship experience or fails to accomplish essential business. We all need to make sacrifices in order to get through this pandemic, and those in charge of the internship program should understand that the choice isn’t to proceed as originally planned or cancel altogether. There is a third path, and that is to lower expectations and provide a meaningful experience to both the employer and employee, even if under normal circumstances that experience would be less than satisfactory.
  2. Pay the interns as you planned but have them work in career-related areas for other organizations, perhaps non-profits. The interns will gain valuable job experience that will make them better qualified to work for you upon graduation, your organization will do more good in your community by helping those non-profits, and you’ll be able to gain insight into the quality of work the interns do by getting a debrief from your non-profit partners.
  3. Cancel the internship but pay the interns as you planned and extend an offer to them now to work for you upon graduation. I learned just a day or two ago that several large employers have already done this. I have not yet been able to find out who they are, but they deserve tremendous praise for being so proactive. I learned years ago from the head of the internship program for Tellabs that the three Rs of a successful internship program are recruitment, recruitment, and recruitment. If the employer fails to offer permanent employment to the intern or the intern fails to accept it, then the internship was a failure. Ideally, the internship is like a temp-to-perm relationship, but these aren’t ideal times and so it might be wise for all of us to step back, remind ourselves of the goal of these internship programs, and then find another way to accomplish that goal such as extending offers now to those who were going to intern before their senior years but, due to COVID-19, cannot.

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Posted in Advice for Employers and Recruiters, Career Advice for Job Seekers, Salary, Scholarships and Finances | Tagged