Internships- they’re the jumping-off point for students or graduates to get real-life work experience in the industries they’ve spent years majoring in. However, for businesses, they’re a great way to find fresh talent that you can eventually hire to join your team. Before the pandemic, internships were generally face-to-face, with interns working their way through the summer.
However, just like everything else, the COVID-19 pandemic uprooted internship season. This caused many businesses to cancel their internship programs, leaving many students without the experience they need to start their journey in their desired industry.
If you’re a business owner who isn’t too sure how to go about virtual internships, here are a few tips to help develop your virtual internship program.
Assign a Coordinator
Before anything else, your interns must have a common contact person in your business. This could be either you, a supervisor, a manager, or a department lead. Having a single person that your interns can go to whenever they need feedback or advice is more efficient in communicating and streamlining the work process. A coordinator’s job is to delegate tasks, answer questions, offer support and address any issues.
Choose Your Communication Platform
When you’re doing everything virtually, it’s important to have designated applications that help you, your co-workers, and your interns stay on the same page. You’ll need programs or applications for file sharing, video conferencing, and project management tools to help you keep track of all the tasks, make sure everyone’s staying on top of those tasks, and relay feedback in real-time.
Consider using the collaboration tools your office already uses to provide interns with experience in using those tools to join the team in the future. Since most of these tools are generally accessible across most platforms, you won’t have to worry about your interns not having the means to communicate with the team and work on their assigned projects.
Give Your Interns Meaningful Activities
Since your interns won’t have the opportunity to observe employees at work, you can make up for this by providing them with case studies, simulations, and other online activities to help them get a feel of the real-world experience. This will help them put what they’ve learned into practice. While you delegate these activities, you must offer a supportive online environment that allows questions. You can also provide feedback after each study or activity to address any issues they’ve encountered or significant progress they’ve made.
This is especially important for fields that require hands-on practice, like the medical field. For instance, medical internships like those in the dentistry field usually require interns to be at the hospital or clinic to shadow their mentors. However, even medical internships are going virtual. At times like these, business owners need to be innovative when conducting their virtual internships, lest they want to be left behind.
It’s also important to remember that the tasks you delegate to interns should offer a proper challenge. Giving them menial jobs will not only inhibit their professional growth but it will also make them less likely to consider your company after they’ve graduated.
Schedule Regular Virtual Meetings
Don’t forget to engage with interns and allow them to do the same with their co-interns. Having regular meetings allows interns to interact with each other and your team and talk about their work experiences. Doing this can help you figure out their strengths and weaknesses, allowing you to create a plan that will improve what tasks they are and aren’t good at. You can also use this time to give them tips and tricks to make their work process more efficient and other helpful tips that can help them improve.
Have an Incentive
Incentives are generally thought to be mostly monetary, but in some cases, they don’t have to be. While it’s a good practice to pay your interns, you can also opt for certificates that prove that they spent their internship at your company. This can help them when they graduate and begin job-hunting.
Make sure to check in on interns as often as possible- they’re bound to have questions or concerns regarding their work but aren’t confident enough to ask for help independently. Whether it’s through a quick video-conference or a short message, make it known that your interns are always free to ask any questions and ask for help whenever they need it. Doing this also helps you monitor their work and correct them early on, especially if they’re assigned to an important project.
Don’t Make It All About Work
Internships are all about learning but don’t forget to have fun too. If it isn’t a busy week for your business, consider organizing an online get-together where the interns can get to know more about each other and the team outside of an office environment. By the end of the get-together, you’ll have fostered new bonds between your interns and your team.
As long as the pandemic is still present, virtual internships will be the new normal. It’s up to businesses to innovate and create an engaging virtual internship program for students to help them get the experience they need for the real world while prioritizing their safety.