Students look to remote internships during pandemic

Brandon Paykamian • May 31, 2020 at 8:11 PM

The COVID-19 pandemic has rocked entire industries, forcing some businesses to rescind internships for college students.

As businesses continue struggling to adapt, East Tennessee State University Career Services Director Jeffrey Alston said many students are exploring remote internship opportunities to gain valuable pre-graduation experience.

Alston said his office usually doesn’t facilitate many college-credit internships during the summer semester, but students were able to pursue remote internships during the spring semester that recently ended after weeks of online-only courses.

“We are seeing that there are still opportunities. I would say that we’re seeing more remote or virtual opportunities that are being posted, which is good. I’ve been sharing it with students as I’ve talked to them,” he said.

“The fact that people were willing to do remote hiring says a lot about companies’ commitment to working with students.”

Alston said virtual internships were commonplace in many sectors before the outbreak. He said he hasn’t noticed many regional internship cancellations through his office, but said some have been rescinded elsewhere.

He said some entities, like accounting firms, are offering remote work or shorter terms for internships to provide experience for students.

“There are things that are in the entertainment, media (sectors), etc. With anything creative like that, a lot of those positions are virtual. This was even before the pandemic,” he said, adding that his office continually updates students on future internship openings.

“I would say for things that are more technical or in the computer science tech world, I’ve seen more of those that are remote. ... Those are just a few that come to mind as I look and see,” he continued. “People are trying their best not to rescind. If anything, they’re trying to alter internships.”

Alston predicts more virtual internship offerings during the upcoming fall semester.

As for the forecast on internships moving forward during the pandemic, Alston said much remains to be seen.

“Whether the remote opportunities are going to match the opportunities that are usually in-person, that I don’t know,” he said.

“Right now, with most places, they don’t know what financials will look like,” he added. “A lot of times they will give internships based on what they think growth will be in the next coming year.”

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