The value of virtual internships

Education | Brighten Youth Edu Centre 24 Nov 2020

Fluctuating covid-19 restrictions around the world mean that a growing number of young people are struggling to secure vital work experience or internships - something more and more employers expect to see in CVs.

Some students worry about finding placements even before they begin their university careers.

However, rolling lockdowns and financial uncertainty have meant that many students have seen their internship canceled or postponed. One solution is virtual internships. But are they worth the time, and do employers perceive them as useful?

Companies like General Electric, KPMG, Deloitte and global law firm Linklaters were offering virtual internships even before the appearance of Covid-19 as part of an increasingly flexible and accessible workplace.

With proximity to the office no longer a barrier, virtual internships allow companies to access a larger pool of talent.

A 2019 Forbes article indicated that business leaders were already starting to view virtual internships in a positive light.

Peter Mead, head of marketing for Bitcoin Australia, stated that virtual internships were essential in his industry, allowing his company to access the much needed technical expertise often unavailable within a reasonable proximity to their physical offices.

He also argued that they were much fairer for interns. "When a traditional intern finishes a task, they stick around, expecting that there is always more work when, sometimes, there just isn't.

"If the intern has traveled hundreds of kilometres for this empty opportunity then this is just unfair. Virtual interns can clock out when they finish their tasks and back in when they're needed."

With interns working from home, they can also save money on travel, accommodation and suitable attire.

Not all feedback was positive.

Steve Pritchard, founder of UK-basedChecklate, said virtual internships rob young people of the chance to gain interpersonal skills and an understanding of how the working world operates.

He pointed out that interns who don't experience all these things may suffer later in in-office jobs.

Taisha Betz, an independent financial planner atContinuum Wealth, said virtual internships were essential to attract more talent in the UK financial services industry, but felt a hybrid solution would be more appropriate. "Interns would likely drift without at least some regular contact days in the office, for orientation, meetings and coaching."

The reality is that many don't have the luxury of choice. A virtual internship might be their only chance to add something to their CV.

A reliance on in-person work is increasingly outdated, and virtual internships are part of a broader, irreversible trend.

If you have any questions about our column, or the issues raised within it, please e-mail them to us:

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