Hosting interns during a pandemic

COVID has radically changed the job and education landscape with a natural flow on internships programs.

The effects have challenged the way organisation’s staff and recruit, and in some cases has compromised long-term growth strategies. However, as lockdowns cease and the economy rebounds, we are seeing businesses scale up, often quickly, and importantly a strong desire to continue to support internship programs.

With skills shortages across the country, internship programs are hot property as they provide mutual benefits for both employee and interns, along with direct access to industry talent.

As more businesses consider an internship program as part of their employment strategy, we explore our top tips for hosting an intern during the pandemic:

Flexible Working Arrangements

Working from home provides challenges for interns due to their lack of workplace experience however also provides the opportunity for a well-planned and structured internship given its remote nature.

Many companies aren’t yet working onsite and are looking to adopt hybrid models for the foreseeable future resulting in internships combining remote and onsite work. The approach works as interns are given adequate support and ‘face to face’ time with mentors, as well as being able to autonomously work from home, which is relevant to most workplaces currently.

When considering a hybrid internship model, we suggest:

    1. Expectations: Hosts must set clear expectations about the role as well as the tasks and objectives the intern must complete by a particular timeframe.
    2. Structure: There must be a structured form of communication especially for days the interns are working from home. For example, a morning call to set the tasks and objectives for the day, and a check in towards the close of business.
    3. Access: Provide multiple points of contact for interns so they have someone to check in with if the main mentor isn’t available.
    4. Patience: With every intern, it is integral to acknowledge the learning time for an intern may be longer compared to a more experienced employee.

Intern Appropriate Tasks

An intern is hired based on future potential, not solely their current skills. Host companies who ran successful internship programs during the pandemic gave interns appropriate tasks – ones that aid their organisation – but also provided relevant experience for the intern. Focus areas can include:

  1. Delegating: Give junior and administrative tasks to the intern opposed to more experienced team members. This allows staff to focus on their core role for the business, particularly if staffing is lean, but will provide an intern access and experience to everyday tasks that exist within businesses and play an important role in an organisation running effectively.
  2. New Ideas: Utilise an intern for their fresh perspective by getting them involved in projects on hold due to COVID. It’s a great way to get a project moving again, will ensure an intern feels valued and gives the opportunity to look at things differently. Just make sure you provide context and the right information so the intern can draw conclusions/provide feedback.
  3. Test & Learn: Use an intern to assist with testing new business processes and training procedures. This also provides relevant ‘everyday work’ experiences for the intern such as learning processes and procedures, and will help you ascertain if it really works!

Planning & Structure

During uncertain times, the difference between a well-run internship and an average one is largely attributed to the level of structure provided from the host company.

Successful host companies will implement a program based on clearly understanding why they need an intern and the value an intern can bring to their business. Everything from the interview process should be aligned to ensure they find the right intern, to training and the roll out a program to deliver mutually beneficial outcomes.

Alternatively, for a company who need assistance with formulating a plan for interns, our dedicated Partnerships team can assist.
Considering Hosting an intern?

If your business would like to consider hosting an intern or are curious as to how our internships program work, please contact with our Corporate Partnerships team who can guide you through the program: CorporatePartnershipsTeamNational@performance.edu.au

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