Not all Virtual Internships are created equal

How to ensure mutual value for your organisation and your interns

With some organisations hitting pause on their summer internship programmes due to the pandemic, virtual internships offer an attractive way for organisations to create a pipeline of future talent without the need to bring students into the office.   While many virtual internship models have popped up in 2020, not all of them are created equal.  Here’s what to watch out for.

Internships offer students the opportunity to gain ‘real world’ experience, explore potential career pathways, different organisations and gain some work-ready skills.  Employers gain the opportunity to engage with talented students, create brand ambassadors and evaluate future suitability for their organisation.  Many organisations will make their best interns deferred graduate offers, taking them out of the market before they graduate.  With over two-thirds of University students intending to undertake an internship during their studies, internships are often an important part of an organisation’s early talent strategy. 

What is a virtual internship?

A virtual internship is normally 2-4 weeks in length.  Participants can work individually or in teams.  The internship is designed to provide all of the dimension of an in-person internship described above, in a condensed format.  And because the intern isn’t working in the office and is working on a set case study or assignment, virtual internships are usually unpaid.  It is understood the student is gaining meaningful growth from the experience (similar to a University assignment – but based in the real world).

Why would students undertake them (especially if they are unpaid)?

Top students are keen to find ways to differentiate themselves in the market, engage with employers and gain real-world experience.  Virtual internships provide exactly that opportunity.  

What makes a great virtual internship?

The best virtual internship programmes are modelled on in-person internships.  That means, having a meaningful assignment that reflects the actual work of the organisation, having a dedicated mentor from the organisation and having clear deliverables and outcomes which students receive feedback on. A recent Forbes article on the topic suggested that, “success comes down to willingness of businesses to support virtual interns with robust onboarding, e-learning and communication tools…and commitment to track their progress.” 

The Talent Solutions virtual internship platform

The Talent Solutions virtual internship platform delivers these critical components.  Based on pedagogical principles, using Kolb’s Theory of Experiential Learning as the foundation, the tool is designed to optimise the opportunity to create high engagement with students.  This means a great student experience with good learning opportunities.  For employers, this means the chance to showcase your organisation and evaluate the suitability of the intern for future employment.

Talent Solutions’ platform was put to the test recently supporting the University of Auckland’s International student virtual internship programme.  Participating organisations included Deloitte, WSP Opus, ATEED, Grant Thornton and Auckland Transport.  The case study below highlights the key measures of success including increased student engagement with participating organisations, key skill development and growth, and recognition of the value provided by mentors. 

100% of students found the virtual internship ‘Extremely valuable’. 100% of mentors would recommend colleagues and other organisations take part in the programme in the future and 100% of clients rated their team’s final report as meeting or exceeding expectation.

If you are designing your virtual internship, ensure these critical components are in place:

  • A meaningful case study or assignment that reflects the actual work of your organisation.
  • Training for mentors and interns on the programme format.
  • An engaging briefing session for students to ask questions and understand the deliverables.
  • Dedicated mentors to provide direction and feedback throughout the internship.
  • A programme manager to track interns and mentors throughout.
  • Clear deliverables and a feedback loop for the intern to learn and grow.

If you are interested in finding out more about our virtual internship model.  Let’s chat.