Many college students saw their summer internships canceled because of COVID-19, but some companies moved to virtual internship programs.
In a recent poll from the National Association of Colleges and Employers, 46% of employers surveyed said they were moving internships online.
Companies depend on intern programs to find new workers. In Indianapolis, seven of the city’s largest employers have come together for a virtual campaign called “Indyfluence.” “These are the companies that came together and said, absolutely, we are going to maintain our internships because we know that this future talent pipeline is what we are going to need in the future,” says Amy Green, global leader of recruiting at Eli Lilly and Company, one of the program participants.
The program has more than 550 interns from 34 states and three countries. For large employers like Eli Lilly and Company, that means working across time zones. “Many of them have stayed in their home country for the period of the summer. So even just navigating what that looks like across countries is very, very challenging,” Green says.
College student Ciara Johnson is in the midst of a 10-week internship at the pharmaceutical company Roche in Indiana. But every morning she wakes up in another city: Chicago. “When my school shut down, I definitely worried about, you know, am I going to have an internship?” Johnson says.
The college senior was supposed to be spending the summer in Indianapolis. But, like so many jobs, Johnson’s internship in Roche’s diversity and inclusion department became virtual. “What my summer has looked like is just really working on trainings and how can we make diversity and inclusion better at the company?” she says.
Overcoming the challenges of working virtually may prove rewarding for both employers and interns as full-time positions go online, too. “In addition to the skill set that I’ve gained, I’ve also acquired a new skill set of learning how to network and work in a virtual environment, which has been really cool,” Johnson says.
It’s valuable experience for a job market changed by a global pandemic.
Looking for a job is also different. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, most career fairs are still on schedule, but many will be hosted online due to the pandemic.