Editor’s note: Corey Schmidt is a peer career coach at DePaul University’s Career Center.
Internships have been rescinded from some college students due to the coronavirus pandemic, leaving students unsure of what the future has in store for them.
Aproximately 16 percent of employers have revoked their summer internship offers, with another 20 percent reducing the number of interns that they will be hiring, the Director of Research, Public Policy and Legislative Affairs for the National Association of Colleges and Employers, Edwin Koc, told CNBC last month. Roughly 75 percent of companies who are continuing their internships have adjusted the program, either moving it online, shortening it or delaying the start date.
Rosemont, Illinois-based US Foods, for example, canceled its summer internship program, which was slated to employ about 50 students.
“Welcoming talented young people to the intern program is something we look forward to each year,” US Food spokeswoman Sara Matheu told the Chicago Tribune in an email. “It was a difficult decision, but there is too much uncertainty around when universities and our headquarters will resume normal schedules.”
The disappearing internship opportunities this summer have caused concern among students focusing on the prospect of finding a job after graduation and gaining experiential learning.
For instance, sophomore accounting student Hailey Lanser said she will likely end her internship search and find another job.
“Getting an internship was a goal of mine this summer as I have always worked the same job, it would have been nice to do something different and more related to my accounting degree,” Lanser said.
Meanwhile Momoko Hasselbring, a junior at DePaul University, was supposed to attend a four-week summer program at the Aspen Music Festival. However, Hasselbring received an email in early March cancelling the brass quintet program that she was going to attend. She was looking forward to attending this program with her group, Braeburn Brass Quintet.
“It is deeply disappointing, and especially discouraging, to not have received an extended invitation to next year’s program,” Hasselbring said. She said she understands Aspen’s decision and that it was to ensure the safety of all participants.
Despite the circumstances, some companies are working to help relieve the stress caused by the lack of internships.
Milwaukee-based career development initiative The Commons has an internship program for Wisconsin students that will run for 10 weeks this summer beginning in June. The program will total 150 hours, and interns will participate in workshops, individual projects, professional development, and networking events.
Additionally, Chicago-based career development company Upkey announced its Virtual Internship Program (VIP) this April to help reduce the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has on the employability of today’s students. Upkey is offering a minimum of 1,000 virtual internships to college students and graduating high school seniors. World Business Chicago and The Academy Group are partnering with Upkey to help make this program possible, according to an Upkey press release from April 21.
The program is designed to help curate the skills needed to succeed in any field, making it useful for everyone, said Amir Badr, founder and CEO of Upkey. The program will highlight a different skill each week in projects, online modules and live webinars. Interns will also participate in a work experience related to each week’s task. The program requires 25 hours a week of work which can be done at a student’s own pace, with the exception of the live webinars, according to Badr.
Interns will receive a $1,000 stipend for completing the program, and Upkey says students will leave the program with a large professional network and a certification from the company. The application for the program has been posted to their website with an extended deadline of May 17.
Badr said that he is excited for the program because it is being “done at a time when people are losing hope and uncertainty in what the future holds for them,” and that it will allow participants to “dabble in a variety of skills and [experiences] that will help them in the workplace.”
Point72 Asset Management also has the 2020 Virtual Academy Summer Externship — externships are generally shorter experiences than internships and focus on experiential learning. This externship program is designed for students interested in the finance field. It’s four weeks long and is designed for students graduating in Fall 2020 or Spring 2021 whose internships have been affected by COVID-19. The program will cover topics such as company valuations, investing and accounting.
“We’ve heard that many companies have canceled internship opportunities for this summer, leaving students in limbo and unable to build skills and network,” said Point72 in a tweet. “We want to help by hosting an intensive virtual investing externship for ’21 grads in July.”
Alongside Upkey, The Commons and Point72, Kohl’s recently moved its Sophomore Career Expo to a virtual setting to help students learn what positions are open at the company, in addition to showing students how to prepare for success in the hiring process. The Career Expo program will email participants about different aspects of life at Kohl’s and how to prepare for the hiring process by sending out email with materials every few weeks.
What to do if you don’t secure an internship
“The best way to enhance career readiness is by taking advantage of professional development opportunities, namely skill building (through online resources like LinkedIn Learning, which is free to current DePaul students) and through networking (in addition to LinkedIn, DePaul’s Alumni Sharing Knowledge (ASK) program is populated with [alumni] who have volunteered to be a mentor to students),” said Michael Elias, the director of internships at the College of Communication, in an email.
Another way to boost your resume is by volunteering. It also allows you to get experience in areas related to your field. For example, health majors can gain experience by volunteering at a nursing home or hospital.
Moreover, the DePaul University Career Center is available to help students and alumni during this time. It’s operating on a remote basis until further notice with options for students to make appointments with advisors online through handshake, dropping in to a virtual peer advising session through the Zoom link on their webpage, or by submitting their resume and/or cover letter for review online.
“Focus on skills of tomorrow and how you can obtain and involve yourself in these skills,” Badr said. “Doesn’t matter how the market is changed, leadership and similar skills are timeless.”
Header image by Jenni Holtz, 14 East