Colleges help students make up for lost internships

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When Shreeya Aranake’s internship was canceled in her sophomore year, as the pandemic set in, she felt lost.

“I was sadder about the cancellation of my internship than the pandemic, which I think is a testament to how slow I was dealing with it all,” she said.

She ended up doing an internship at an Arlington, Virginia newspaper for only two months instead of the semester she was supposed to do. To compensate for the canceled internship, she worked freelance for local newspapers in the region.

Now a history student at George Washington University, Aranake said she was eager to graduate and enter the workforce as she was unable to secure another internship.

“I’m really nervous right now, but I’m not sure if it’s just a senior or if it’s a senior during COVID-19,” Aranake said. “I hope that one day I will get an internship based on the experience I have. “

She even wrote a column in the student journal GW urging university departments to provide employment and internship resources to students and spoke about his stress.

“As a senior, you start to see your peers get top internships, not just at a random company or institution,” Aranake said. “I think just comparing yourself to your peers is really one of the most stressful parts of it all.”

COVID-19 has deprived students of countless opportunities, including internships, which often lead to full-time employment. The National Association of Colleges and Employers, a nonprofit organization for career counseling services recruiting practitioners and others interested in hiring college graduates, found that about 22 percent of employers internships revoked in April 2020. In addition, NACE found 41 per cent of employers internship start dates delayed in May 2020, thus reducing the total duration of internships, which traditionally last from 10 to 12 weeks.

Shawn VanDerziel, executive director of NACE, said the pandemic “has had a negative impact on the number of internship opportunities available”.

“For employers, we know that the deciding factor between two otherwise equally qualified applicants who have just graduated from college is the paid internship experience,” he said. “So having that many students as this experience is really critical.”

Internships have only partially bounced back for the summer of 2021. 2021 survey on internships and NACE cooperatives found employers said they would hire 0.5% fewer interns than they did for summer 2020. In NACE Fall 2021 Rapid Survey, 32 percent of employers ran 2021 summer internship programs that were exclusively virtual, and 50 percent ran hybrid programs. VanDerziel doesn’t expect things to change much in the near future.

“We expect that this fall these numbers for virtual internships will remain fairly similar due to the ongoing Delta variant,” he said.

To help compensate for canceled, delayed and virtual internships, institutions are building their alumni networks and creating new programs to better connect students to employers.

Lee Schott, Dean of Career Development at Kenyon College, and his team developed professional extension projects, distance learning exercises and student opportunities designed by Kenyon alumni in different industries. They are intended to give students a real life experience with professionals while also allowing them to build their networks. Schott said students often find it intimidating to network with alumni in their areas of interest, so the new program offers an easier path.

“We were all excited when we designed it because it kind of drives our alumni and allows them to be creative,” Schott said. “And we just got blown away by some of the projects they submitted, and the students loved it.”

In one project, a former student who works at NPR developed a program that allowed a student to create a short story on the radio, which they discussed together. The program was so successful that it became a standing offer at Kenyon, Schott said.

Some institutions have used their already existing programming to help students adjust. In 2019, the University of Chicago Career Center created short-term virtual project opportunities for students to gain experience with organizations outside of the region. Meredith Daw, associate vice president and executive director of career advancement at the university, said that through these projects, companies and faculty can hire students to do virtual work, including lab research or research. non-profit work. This was especially helpful during the pandemic.

“It was really powerful to see how many students felt supported and engaged during this time,” Daw said.

Melanie Stover, director of employer engagement, career services and grants initiatives at Northern Virginia Community College, said over the past year there has been a “noticeable” decrease in internship applications. companies sent to the institution.

At the start of the pandemic, the college created a virtual lobby that allows employers to meet with students about internships and other opportunities in their own Zoom breakout session, Stover said. So far, the sessions have garnered the participation of hundreds of students.

“Given NOVA’s multiple campuses, the use of virtual programming helps ensure equal access to all students, regardless of their location or ability to physically attend recruiting events,” said Stover.

Bob Orndorff, senior director of career services at Penn State University, said his center caters to students whose internships have been canceled or delayed and offers one-on-one career counseling and coaching sessions. The center also puts students in touch with its network of alumni to help them discover new internship perspectives.

“Many students have found opportunities to work remotely, which removes barriers such as the need to relocate and pay for accommodation during a summer internship,” Orndorff said.

At the University of Washington, Briana Randall, executive director of the Career and Internship Center, said internship and job offers were “through the roof,” with offers even higher than they were before. the pandemic.

“Internships have really come back and mostly last summer, some in person, some virtual and some hybrids,” Randall said. “So I think the internship market has rebounded and is maybe stronger than before.”

She said that the main goal of her office is to help students gain experience, even without an internship.

“If this isn’t the internship they were hoping for, can they volunteer or can they do a project for a neighbor? Randall said. “We just encourage them to be a little more open-minded about how they can gain experience.”

VanDerziel of NACE said it was essential for colleges to help students think “creatively” about their employment prospects, so that they can be flexible once they enter the job market. job.

“There are jobs available,” VanDerziel said. Students just need help seeing themselves “in other industries and other jobs” rather than “relating to a particular job or industry”.

Adriana Lacy, who founded Journalism Mentors, an organization that helps equip the next generation of media leaders, believes that students benefit greatly from on-campus mentoring programs.

“Giving people that speaking time is so important because it helps them get their foot in the door and meet people,” Lacy said. “I think even for schools that may not have a large number of alumni, faculty mentorship is another great example. “

She added that campuses could do a better job teaching all students, regardless of their specialty, how to be entrepreneurs or pursue self-employment.

For Kenyon’s Schott, the challenge is to help students reflect on the work they have done and explain it to employers. Likewise, Daw said his office tries to help students see the benefits of virtual internships, including the fact that students don’t have to move to get a job.

“Our students really took advantage of the opportunity and are in a good position,” said Daw. “We had our largest number of internship students last summer.

More commitment

Thanks to the new virtual resources made available to students during the pandemic, some institutions have seen student engagement increase. Schott has been at Kenyon College for 10 years and said the “appetite” for career development has grown.

Daw, of the University of Chicago, said the institution has always had a very high level of student engagement in its career center, but even so, it’s booming.

“We have seen the numbers continue to rise as students need help navigating this uncertain time,” Daw said. “But we’ve also found that the more opportunities we give them, the more excited they are to work with us.”

Randall said visits to the University of Washington Career Center website are “amazing” and that his office has seen high attendance at career development webinars. However, she said her office would like to see more one-on-one appointments and virtual job fairs.

At Penn State, Orndorff said there had been a “significant increase” in virtual career counseling sessions, inter-campus programs and the use of online resources. Additionally, he said that creating a virtual platform for the 2021 Spring Career Fair also increased engagement.


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