While companies across the globe adjust their workplace policies and hiring practices in response to COVID-19 and an economic downturn, many organizations are considering what’s next for their internship programs. While several companies have already cancelled their summer internships, others are finding creative ways to adapt so that students and recent college graduates can still gain work experience despite the current job market.

Here’s why it’s still important to have an internship program in rain or shine, and how to make yours recession-proof:

Why your company should keep offering internships during a recession

Whether hiring at your organization is at a standstill, growing exponentially or in “wait and see” mode, it is still a good idea to figure out how to maintain your 2020 summer internship program for several reasons:

You’ve already made a strong investment in campus recruiting. 

Before COVID-19, you may have taken aggressive, multi-year actions to attract, engage and hire college students as interns, investing in your future workforce and building a strong talent pipeline in a tight labor market. How your organization decides to handle its 2020 program will determine whether you can build on the hiring progress you’ve made or have to start from scratch when the economy turns the corner. 

Your new college graduate talent pipeline could disappear. 

Numerous companies are moving ahead with their summer internship programs. Cancel yours, and candidates may simply move on to other employers.

Interns might be able to fill in gaps if you’re not able to hire for full-time roles right now. 

Can you leverage the upcoming class of interns to help keep operations on track while driving new initiatives for the future?

Internships can help you prepare for the future of work. 

If you were planning on increasing the size of your remote workforce, moving ahead with a virtual 2020 internship program enables you to launch, assess, and improve related policies and practice before hiring a full-time workforce.

Gen Zers can help your workforce maximize technology.  

These digital natives are quick to adopt, learn about and make the most of technology – and they can help your existing employees do the same.  

Your employment brand and crucial relationships will be affected. If you have a well-established internship program, it’s likely that students and career services staff already know about it. If the program were to disappear for a few years, you’re at risk of losing their attention for good. 

How will this recession impact traditional internship programs?

As noted by TechRepublic, “Summer internships aren’t going away, but they may look very different this year.”

Employers need to evaluate how current internship programs – and all related recruiting, hiring, onboarding, and employment activities – may need to change in light of COVID-19.

You may need to:

  • Talk to hiring managers about what may need to change (like internship goals, work assigned, managing interns remotely, providing feedback from afar, and more).
  • Talk to college career center contacts about your plans – most are continuing to offer their services to students online, and can help you promote open positions.
  • Participate in virtual career fairs and use new channels to find interns.
  • Transition to remote interview scheduling, video interviews and virtual candidate evaluations
  • Onboard interns safely and, possibly, virtually. (If interns are going to be on-site, consider including safety practices and guidelines in your offer prior to their first day.)
  • Set up interns to work from home so they are productive from day one.
  • Plan frequent, ongoing communications, as well as virtual check-ins, get togethers, meetings and activities so interns get to know colleagues, the culture, work environment and brand.
  • Assess budgets and adjust accordingly.

What companies are doing to keep internships going

Employers are taking a number of simple and creative approaches to maintain their internship programs and maximize their investment in future talent:

  • Delaying the start or shortening the length of internships.  This gives staff extra time to adjust their programs to reflect today’s realities and recognizes that some time-consuming face to face activities may not be an option at this time.
  • Going virtual. From interviews and hiring to onboarding and work, entire internship experiences are moving online.  Forbes reported that the percentage of employers offering virtual internships exploded from 2.4% during the last week of March to 36% as of mid-April. This includes big name employers like Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, IBM and Microsoft (source: MarketWatch).
  • Honoring original pay agreements. Eliminating internships – and the pay that accompany them – is impacting employment brands, and leaving students frustrated about missed opportunities. (go to GitHub or Reddit to see what college students are saying).
  • Reducing the number of internships available. Some are better than none.
  • Moving ahead as planned. About 30% are still moving ahead with on-site internships as planned, according to Forbes. Bloomberg News notes that employers moving ahead as planned have promised more details to come.
  • Communicating more. Increased communication with incoming interns addresses concerns, strengthens trust, and positions them to succeed.
  • Offering unpaid internships, which can still benefit students while protecting an employer’s brand.

“We remember how difficult the 2008 recession was for both employers and student job seekers, and we know that the COVID-19 outbreak poses similar challenges. The good news is that today’s technology makes hiring, onboarding, and remote work easier than ever before. As companies big and small consider internship next steps, we encourage them to adapt by offering remote options rather than canceling internships altogether. Continuing to invest in early talent development is crucial to the success of the future workforce, and is key to ensuring a lasting talent pipeline for your organization.” 

Jason Weingarten, Yello Co-Founder & CEO

Next steps for internship planning

Here are some great resources to guide your next steps in internship planning:

·  Yello’s Virtual Internship Study

·  National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE)

·  Talent Board coronavirus in the workplace resources

·  Handshake’s creative ways to make your virtual internship a success

And, as always, Yello’s experts are available to help your organization adopt a variety of virtual hiring solutions. Request your free demo to learn what Yello can do for you.