3 reasons why your business should adopt virtual internships
By Dr. Leigh Anne Taylor Knight, Managing Director and Chief Operating Officer, The DeBruce Foundation
The practice of the internship invented a word in 2020 in response to the pandemic: vShips.
Internships – along with day schools, scholarships, apprenticeships, returns and all the “boats” – are essential for preparing individuals for careers, connecting talent with opportunity and building a sustainable workforce. When the number of internships declined due to the pandemic, employers suddenly needed a strategy to keep these opportunities for widening avenues open.
Not all internships can go virtual. But some employers who might otherwise make the switch may not have been able to create or preserve – let alone develop – internship programs in a socially distant world. For some, it may have seemed easier to do away with internship programs altogether rather than redesigning them as online or hybrid programs. But it is a risky choice that could prevent them from opportunity and growth.
In 2020, after researching what businesses and organizations were doing and learning, the DeBruce Foundation launched vShips, an online resource portal designed to demystify virtual internships for employers based on advice from national business leaders and practical tips for creating and maximizing vShips, or virtual internships.
During four panel discussions at the end of 2020, these leaders discussed vShips considerations such as how to onboard new interns and barriers such as access to technology. These discussions allowed us to identify three observations that emerged last year and which can help ensure the smooth running of the future of your organization:
- Cutting internships means cutting your own pool of training and talent.
This includes your goals for diversity, equity and inclusion. vShips can help you keep the pipeline open – and maybe even expand it.
The pandemic has brought to light several issues for business leaders. Factors such as transportation, pay (or, more importantly, lack of it), and location can prevent potential candidates from doing internships.
“One of the benefits of virtual internships is that they take conversations about diversity in internships to a larger stage on equality and access,” says Jazmin Burrell, creative strategist at Snap who oversaw a program vShip in 2020.
And just allowing interns to live and work from anywhere encourages more people to apply, which can exponentially increase your number of qualified applicants, says Ted Green, who supervised virtual interns at Facebook. .
Tyler Nottberg, CEO and President of US Engineering, stressed the importance of maintaining a vShip program to maintain a culture of the future. “In order for us to keep looking ahead, our internship program is essential,” he said.
Whether it’s eliminating issues with location, a work wardrobe, or transportation, vShips offer many companies the opportunity to diversify their internship pool by making the program more inclusive.
- Paid interns, fellows, externs and apprentices produce valuable work and can play a key role in improving your results.
Many employers view interns and fellows as an important part of their workforce that makes a significant contribution. Interns can take responsibility and ownership of decisions and projects and can “manage” to complete tasks and move projects forward. This autonomy makes it a more rewarding experience for everyone involved.
But that can only happen when you give interns real job responsibilities and the support they need to manage their projects. “Take away any preconceptions about what you think a student is going to do with the ability to work from home on the couch,” says Eva Finan, senior talent management consultant at Commerce Bank. “They are going to work hard, they are going to get involved, they are going to learn to network.”
- Offering vShips can help you navigate the future of work by reorienting your business towards digital natives, rather than requiring digital natives to conform to traditional practices.
We all know that the future of work will be driven by the younger generations, so why not embrace their contribution, voice and needs now instant loan?
PwC did not change the content of its internship program in 2020 – it simply changed the way it implemented the program, says Beth Barakat, head of national talent acquisition programs. The modification of this delivery allowed the company to build on and modernize its existing program. Other leaders developed new ways to increase internal communication that benefited the entire company, not just interns.
Virtual and hybrid work is here to stay. VShip programs can be a great place for your organization to pilot new ideas and platforms.
In that sense, the disruption of the pandemic has been a beacon of hope for many.
“It was really scary to say, ‘Let’s go virtual,’ says Kristopher Frye, co-executive director of The Urban Leaders Fellowship. “What we didn’t anticipate was that we ended up in this innovative space where we could redefine.”
With the promise of more vaccinations, we hope more companies can fully and safely resume in-person work soon. But we know it will take time, and future internships could still vShips or hybrid internships. Further down, some of the changes that appear to be temporary fixes might fit into the future of work.
Regardless of the physical location or medium of your ship, it is essential for your organization to keep as many doors open as possible to broaden career paths and your economic growth. The vShips are sailing. Don’t miss the boat.
To learn more about the DeBruce Foundation and vShips, click here.
The DeBruce Foundation is a national foundation whose mission is to broaden pathways to economic growth and opportunity. The Foundation is committed to helping individuals unlock their potential and find career paths. By developing solutions such as Agile work profiler, we are changing the way people pursue their careers. By establishing strategic partnerships, we increase experiences and visibility to expand career opportunities, starting with the young and working throughout life.
Dr Leigh Anne Taylor Knight is an ingenious, forward-looking leader who serves The DeBruce Foundation as executive director and chief operating officer. A teacher at heart, she has also served as an assistant superintendent for Kindergarten to Grade 12, advising educational institutions across the country and leading a two-state education research consortium.