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April 6, 2020
3 Ways Top Companies Are Handling Their Summer Internship Programs in The Wake of Coronavirus

In the wake of the global coronavirus pandemic, everything about work is changing. This means internship programs, too, must adapt to a different world. But what exactly does that look like?

WayUp partners with thousands of the world's most trusted employers—from rising startups to Fortune 500s—to help them fill entry-level jobs and internship programs. Over the past few weeks, we’ve caught up with leaders across various industries and company sizes to find out what they’re doing with their internship programs this summer.

Here are three of the most common responses we found.

1. Going Virtual: Many Companies Are Running Remote Internship Programs

Running a remote internship program would not be most companies’ first choice. However, that’s precisely the contingency for which most organizations are planning. 

Why run a remote internship program? Given the uncertainty about when and to what extent it will be safe to stop social distancing measures, planning for an entirely virtual internship is a safe way to ensure your company can still run its program while preserving a talent pipeline for the Class of 2021 graduates..

What do you need to be prepared for a virtual internship program? There’s a lot to consider when it comes to transforming an in-person summer program into a virtual internship program.

You’ll need to make a communication plan to provide instructions to both interns and managers. Teams need to be ready and willing to train interns as well as keep them engaged. You’ll need to ensure you have virtual programs in place to build community and help interns forge networks without face-to-face interaction. There are challenges facing someone in a remote role, and you need to be there to show interns how to overcome them.

Be ready to guide interns and give them the resources they need to succeed. This goes beyond designing a program that works remotely. Ensure that your interns are capable of doing their jobs from home. Do they have access to the technology they need? Are the computers they have at home capable of running your software? Do they have access to a reliable internet connection? Start polling your interns to see what kinds of technology they have access to. If it’s insufficient, make a plan to get them what they need.

What are the impacts of going virtual? Going virtual allows companies to maintain their employer brand, reputation, and talent pipeline—without risking anyone’s safety or violating recommended public health guidelines. Programs like this can be critical for maintaining the talent pipeline, which extends beyond the realm of immediate hiring. Without being able to hire a full class of 2021 graduates, your company may be in a tricky position when it comes to promoting people into associate and other more senior-level roles in a few years.

2. Some Companies Are Shortening Their Internship Programs To Delay The Start

While the estimates for when social distancing measures will be lifted vary widely—from two months to over a year—some companies are preparing to potentially run internship programs later in the summer, starting in mid-to-late July or August rather than in June.

Should your shortened program be in person or virtual? Most talent acquisition and campus recruiting leaders, if they were considering an in-person program at all, were planning for both possibilities. With much of the planning for in-person programs already done, putting together a shortened, in-person internship program should only be a matter of shrinking the timeline, picking the most valuable events and initiatives, and updating the logistics. Planning for a virtual internship, as detailed above, is a bit more complicated, but it could become a necessity to protect your program. There’s nothing wrong with hoping the situation will calm down by July, but it’s essential to plan for a world in which it doesn’t.

Why should you shorten your internship program if it’s remote/virtual? Some leaders are using the extra time to prepare for the transition to remote internship work. Coming up with virtual events, creating a virtual onboarding program, and making sure that all interns have the necessary technology, resources, and access will take time. Delaying the start date is one way of ensuring that there is enough time to prepare.

3. Cancelling The Summer Internship Program

Cancelling your internship program is not ideal, as it could take a toll on your employer brand and potentially mean a significant disruption in your talent pipeline. Internships are, of course, a huge source of entry-level hires. Despite the cliché, internship programs really are about finding the next generation of leaders. Putting this on hold for a year would be a painful choice, but there are some companies for which that’s the only tenable choice.

Under what circumstances are companies cancelling their internship programs? Certain internship programs—and companies—are not capable of transitioning their internship roles to remote work. For example, companies that require their interns to be out and about, like field engineering or field marketing firms. Other companies are saving the budget earmarked for the internship program in order to tighten their belts in an uncertain economy.

Are companies doing partial cancellations? Some companies, especially those with internship functions that require in-person contact or fieldwork, are cancelling the program for just those functions and switching everyone else to remote work. This is a tough position to be in because often jobs that require in-field work are hard to fill, so cancelling an internship program cuts off a critical talent pipeline.

What can companies do to mitigate the harms of cancelling? Some TA leaders we spoke to are saying that their companies are considering giving full-time offers to some or all of the cancelled interns since human resources and hiring managers have already vetted them. Others are recommending those cancelled interns to other companies who are still running programs as a sign of goodwill.

A Universal Lesson: Prepare For Multiple Contingencies

The most important thing to note is that most organizations we spoke to were not committing fully to any plan of action. In fact, most recruiting teams were presenting multiple contingency plans to their leadership, weighing the different possible outcomes of the global crisis and how that could affect their plans.

For more insight on campus recruiting in the age of coronavirus, or help ramping up digital recruiting efforts, fill out the form below or contact us at engage@wayup.com.

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