Summer internships go digital amid pandemic

Education

(CBS) Many students who planned on summer internships and the chance to build professional relationships saw those hopes dashed by the COVID-19 pandemic. But there are new opportunities in virtual internships, and experts say the skill sets gained in these unusual times may come in handy for future jobs.

Data from Glassdoor Economic Research shows one in two internship openings closed since the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. began. Internship hiring fell 39% in April, compared to last year.  Internships in travel and tourism industries were the hardest hit with a 92% drop, according to Glassdoor.

Experts say employers across multiple industries are hosting virtual internships and students can still gain valuable experience, even if they’re missing out on in-person coaching.

Graduating Johns Hopkins University senior Elana Neher was looking forward to her summer internship at an archaeological center in Colorado, but it was canceled. “I’m still a little sad about it, of course. Why wouldn’t I be?” she says.  Neher managed to arrange a virtual internship with a campus museum, instead. “It’s something to build, and something to do research and apply similar skills but it’s something I can do at home,” she says.

University of Tampa graduate Alexis Novales is building relationships in her remote public relations internship. “Utilizing Zoom and all of those video chat softwares, you can still, you know, talk to your supervisors, get to know them.  It definitely won’t be like, ‘Hey, let’s grab a coffee in like ten minutes’. But you can definitely still, you know, have those conversations,” she says.

Christine Cruzvergara is a vice president at Handshake, a platform connecting college students with internships and jobs. She says the flexibility this moment calls for is attractive to employers. “Change is a muscle, and I think the generations that have to enter a workforce that is difficult, they are actually utilizing that muscle, and that will actually set them up very well for the future,” she says.

Cruzvergara recommends students focus on what they can control, like completing online profiles and reaching out to peers and alumni to build a network.

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