The pandemic changed a lot in 2020 and as companies recalibrate their operations, that includes re-thinking their internship program. After a lost year of opportunities, students will be seeking impactful, real-world work experiences and companies will be anxious to rebuild this invaluable talent pipeline.

As your organization reassesses its intern development program, here are a few key takeaways to keep in mind.

The only source of knowledge is experience

At netlogx, the most successful internships are those that have provided broad exposure to different parts of the organization. Students need the opportunity to not only exercise the skills they have learned in their studies, but to explore their interests in order to gain exposure to areas of the business that may better help them map out their career path. Setting up rotations through various departments and assigning them to at least one substantial project during their time with you is key. When given the opportunity to work on a sustained initiative, it provides students with a concrete example to reference when selling their skill set to future employers.

In addition, interns who are given the opportunity to learn many facets of your business, examining both the internal and external factors, will be better prepared for on-the-job success should they be offered a post-graduation job opportunity.

Distance doesn’t matter if they are the right fit

We learned during the pandemic that to effectively collaborate with one another, we don’t all need to be in the same room, same state or, for that matter, the same country!

The pandemic forced everyone to embrace digital technologies and many of us now have the technological infrastructure in place to easily accommodate remote working. Virtual platforms not only provide flexibility for students who may choose to remain on campus during the summer session for additional coursework, but also helps increase access for diverse students who otherwise may not be able to pursue early career opportunities at your physical location.

To get the most out of the experience, leaders have to be consistent with offering one-on-one touch points such as virtual coffee and opportunities to socialize online with one another. For example, we host a virtual book study club to help guide professional development at netlogx.

The upside is that whether in-person or remote, it’s now easier to extend an internship into the fall semester which allows for additional experience and allows rock star interns to remain connected to your organization. Additionally this arrangement reinforces that they can work independently and ensures they have good time management skills which are a necessity in today’s fast-paced work environment.

We rise by lifting others

Although the pace of progress is increasing, women and minorities still remain significantly underrepresented in the boardroom. Seeing a presence of female leaders working in STEM fields as part of an internship experience is critical to helping alleviate the gaps.

There are exceptional programs in place such as Women & Hi Tech’s partnership with Pass the Torch for Women Foundation and The Indiana Latino Institute (ILI) Internship Program that help address the needs of a workplace that is diverse by design. However, it’s also imperative that we be part of the solution by supporting and encouraging others to get the best start possible.

Collaboration makes us better

The full impact of an internship cannot be achieved without collaboration. From initially connecting students and employers through programs such as Indiana INTERNnet (soon to become Work and Learn Indiana) to involving team members in different roles and experience levels to help manage the intern, teamwork makes it a mutually beneficial experience for both.

Creating pathways to careers isn’t just beneficial for one student or one company. Collaboration among universities, community partners, entrepreneurs, government officials, employers and students helps Indiana cultivate a stronger workforce in order to grow and fill the increasing number of jobs which will enable the state to continue to provide economic prosperity for its people.

These are just a few considerations to keep in mind as we transition to what the new normal should be. It’s important to remember that every student deserves the same opportunities for career development. When we come together and broaden our thoughts about the traditional internship, it will enable us to attract, retain and ultimately accelerate the next generation of talent.