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3 Ways Internships Transformed in 2020

In March 2020, the US workforce had to make a major transition from an in-person to remote workplace. The implementation of physical distancing regulations in response to the Coronavirus pandemic required much of the workforce to relocate and work from a safe distance. Pew Research Center determined that one-in-four U.S. workers, about 38.1 million people, were employed in the industries most likely to feel an immediate impact from the COVID-19 outbreak. This transition also affected a critical part of recruiting and workforce development practices, like internship programs.

With internship programs around the corner, there was much uncertainty about how summer internships would be impacted, if at all. The indefinite nature of the global health crisis made it difficult for businesses and HR leaders to decide how their programs should adapt. By April 2020, many students had already received offer letters for their summer internship programs. With programs set to start in only a few months, organizations struggled to make a decision on what to do about their internship programs. “‘We felt compelled to get an answer to the interns as soon as possible because we knew they had to plan for their summer and were all dealing with so much uncertainty,’ Rod Adams, U.S. recruitment leader for PwC, told CNBC Make It.

In response, talent leaders began building contingency plans to be ready for their interns. Traditionally held in-person, internships experienced many changes this year and here are 3 major trends we saw:

1. Internships went remote

The overwhelming majority of internship programs shifted from in-person to remote. A March-June monthly poll conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) found that by the end of April, nearly three-quarters of large companies (organizations with 20,000+ employees) planned to move their summer 2020 internships programs to virtual (NACE).

Check out some of the leading organizations that hosted amazing remote internship programs in 2020.

2. Internships were cancelled

During these unprecedented times, not all organizations made the call to go remote resulting in a large number of internships being cancelled. At the beginning of the pandemic, Glassdoor saw nearly a 50% drop in active internship postings. Reputable organizations like AirBnB, Disney and Yelp all cancelled their internship programs. This decision was met with a major response from students. In fact, several engineering students at Arizona State University launched ismyinternshipcancelled.com to track changes in summer 2020 internship programs.

3. Internships’ timelines were adjusted

Lastly, many programs delayed their start date to prepare for a remote internship or even reduced the length of their programs. Talent leaders had to work closely with their interns to facilitate all of these changes and ensure that their organization was ready to host interns remotely. Internship programs are important for brands, and companies strive to ensure the best experience for their interns.

In summary, many changes to the workplace in 2020 were largely felt across internship programs. Although organizations faced great challenges and difficult decisions, there were many positive outcomes from the changes to internships in 2020. Talent leaders told Symba, that shifting to a remote setting improved the accessibility of their programs and opened opportunities for greater innovation. Companies are now preparing for internships in 2021 and using key learnings from 2020 to prepare. To learn more about remote internships and best practices for your organization, please visit Symba.io.