When the world of work got turned upside down, so did internships. In 2020, college students saw their internships vanish—it’s been estimated that nearly half of all internships were canceled. But the other half, decided to launch internship programs remotely. With the inevitable shift to remote work, virtual or remote internships stepped into the spotlight and there are benefits to keeping some of these programs remote.
Employers are seeing advantages to remote/virtual internships, like being able to recruit more diverse candidates where physical location used to be a barrier. Think about the cost of living for an intern in San Francisco, New York, or Washington DC—being able to hold a virtual internship without having to incur those costs, can be a game changer for many.
As the demand for flexibility in the workplace continues to be a priority, interns will see that flexibility is a mainstay and will expect it as well. Companies will likely continue to create these opportunities for interns going forward. In addition to gaining practical training, those with virtual internships will be able to easily transition into remote work. Interns simply complete their tasks and responsibilities from home instead of going into an office—just like remote workers do.
Working remotely is a skill that cannot be taught in a classroom. The ability to manage one’s own workload can only be developed through trial and error and an online internship is a great way to test these skills. Obviously, there’s a higher level of independence and autonomy that comes with working remotely and this comes with more responsibility and accountability on the part of the intern.
A necessary skill came to light in 2020 and that’s digital literacy or the digital and technical skills to learn and adapt to new software. This is crucial to an employee’s success and interns—mostly young tech savvy college students are great at this—so there’s no worry from employers that the interns will not catch on fast.
Having interns work remotely is budget friendly and environmentally friendly too. With interns not needing to report to a specified workplace each day, it cuts down on our collective carbon footprint. No need to drive anywhere, pay for gasoline, etc. With a collective goal to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 45% by 2030—remote work and internships can help.
This shift in the way we work, should be ingrained with those who are just starting out too. The ability to pivot and change directions is an excellent lesson for interns and those organizations who are paving the way with their remote internship programs are on the forefront of imparting those important skills.