Uncertainly surrounding COVID-19 has led college students across the country to face the reality that their summer internships might go remote or not happen at all. A poll from the National Association of Colleges and Employers that asked over 200 employers how they’re handling internship programs said 36% of the polled companies switched to a virtual format. Other companies like Yelp and Glassdoor also slashed their plans to host summer interns.
While some Philly companies and orgs canceled summer internships amid the pandemic, others plan to carry out programs remotely.
A different kind of internship
SAP is moving forward with virtual summer internships. The software giant with its North American HQ in Newtown Square hires about 3,000 interns globally each year, said Christine Archer, intern experience project global lead at SAP. Around 250 of the interns are in the Philly area. Archer said a decrease in internship numbers is likely, but she expects the impact to be minimal.
“Having an internship experience be largely or entirely virtual is a big adjustment,” Archer said. “My team and I are actively preparing a virtual experience that is still impactful, immersive and valuable for the interns and the business.”
SAP’s intern managers are partnering with internal colleagues who work in D&I and corporate social responsibility so interns in the program can still get a feel for the culture of the company.
“This virtual internship space challenges all of us to be more thoughtful about the kind of work interns are assigned and make sure there are provisions for fun — building a sense of community and rapport happens organically in an office setting, but needs some effort when virtual,” said Archer.
Freedom Mortgage’s First Flyer Program is a yearlong, full-time, paid training program that gives college grads from all majors a chance to learn the skills needed to launch a career in financial services. Evie Burt, a social media specialist at ORS Partners who is helping the Mt. Laurel-based mortgage company with recruiting, said the program is fully equipped to transition to a remote setting. She said the company is adjusting to an online recruitment and interview process and is focused on hiring “hundreds” of soon-to-be college grads to begin working this summer.
“Recruiting looks a little different now that we are all working remotely and recruiting virtually,” Burt said. “Typically, we get to meet students in person, on campus and at career events and now we are connecting with them online through social media, sources like Indeed and virtual career events that have been set up over the past few weeks.”
The need for new graduates is especially important right now because Freedom Mortgage employees are handling an increase in mortgage applications, she said: A Mortgage Bankers Association’s weekly survey reported a 55% increase in mortgage applications for the week ending March 6.
Tips for fostering connections
For companies looking to give interns a good remote experience, Campus Philly is offering multiple resources like an “Intern Managers 101” training to its partners. The nonprofit’s corporate relations manager, Deanna Crusco, shared some of the organization’s tips.
“Consider assigning your intern a mentor, someone who is on a different team than the intern’s direct colleagues,” Crusco said. “This is a great professional development opportunity for another employee, and it provides some upfront comfort for the intern to have someone to turn to for guidance.”
She recommends having interns and their managers do a tour of their remote work spaces. This will allow the intern to show their personality while getting to know you better. Frequent communication is important. Crusco said to vary communication channels based on the task at hand. For example, if you’re looking to have brainstorm chat, start a thread on Slack or a similar messaging app.
Other tips about careers and virtual learning programs are on Campus Philly’s student resource guide.-30-