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7 ways that employers are adapting their internship programs in this COVID-19 world

Posted April 24, 2020 by

College Recruiter believes that every student and recent graduate deserves a great career, and one of the greatest ways to start down the career path is to land a quality, paid internship.

Why? Because employers offering those internships typically look at their internship programs as temp-to-perm programs where they get to try out the intern and the intern gets to try out the employer too. If both are happy, then the employer should extend to the intern an offer for permanent employment upon graduation and the intern should accept that offer.

But, in this COVID-19 world, virtually all internships have been thrown into turmoil. Many schools, concerned for the safety of their students and also lawsuits should those students get sick, are prohibiting students from engaging in internships unless they’re remote. Can a school really prohibit a student from working on-site? Maybe not, but surely the school can refuse to extend credit for the internship to the student and many schools require students to successfully complete an internship in order to graduate.

Other internships simply cannot be done remotely, or cannot be done remotely without substantial adaptation. For example, if you’re a restaurant management major and your internship would have had you working in a restaurant, can you do that work from home? No, but that restaurant might be able to assign projects to you that can be done at home. Not ideal, but better than nothing.

Over the past couple of months, we’ve heard from many employers about how they’re adapting their internships. One reason they’re trying so hard is that they know that if they simply rescind their internship offers that their employment brand will be so damaged amongst students that it will take years for them to recover, and hiring students is critical to the success of these organizations for those students are hired to become the future leaders of those organizations. Another reason they’re trying so hard to salvage their internship programs is also selfish but not at all evil: they want the talent. Remember, employers with quality internship programs have as a goal the conversion of those interns into permanent employees. The goal of their internship program isn’t to get work done for two or three months, but to hire college-educated talent while those employees are in school and after they’ve graduated.

What are some ways that employers are adapting their internship programs? Here are seven:

  1. Move the in-person experience to virtual-only.  
  2. Push back the start date to July (or later) for a 5-week internship and honored what students expected to be paid over the summer in full.
  3. Shorten internship to two- or three- weeks as a virtual, knowledge-based experience, while still honoring expected compensation.
  4. Offer to pay for breaking housing leases and give small stipends/gift cards if you have to rescind an offer.
  5. Cancel the summer internship and instead extend a full-time offer to the student for summer 2021. Remember, the internship is about converting the student into a permanent employee upon graduation, so this is essentially a cut-to-the-chase strategy.
  6. Delay full-time start dates to later in the summer to early fall if the work cannot be done virtually.
  7. Pay the intern as you agreed to, but have them work remotely for a non-profit in their community. Your hiring manager should schedule weekly or bi-weekly video calls with the intern and her non-profit manager to make sure both are happy. At the end of the internship, get a detailed, debrief from both and then use that to, hopefully, justify converting that intern into a permanent employee upon graduation.
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Posted in Advice for Employers and Recruiters, Career Advice for Job Seekers, Salary, Scholarships and Finances | Tagged