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Key Takeaways from the Webinar “Virtual, In-Person, or Hybrid: Crafting an Impactful 2022 Summer Internship Program”

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Recently, Ellen Zhang, our Chief Marketing Officer at Symba, co-hosted a 45-min webinar with Kate Beckman, Executive Manager, Community and Insights from RippleMatch. In this webinar, Kate presented powerful data and insights on the different internships formats, pros and cons of each, and what interns prefer; while Ellen shared corresponding program design recommendations. This data was gathered from RippleMatch’s intern surveys conducted between Fall 2020 to Fall 2021.

We rounded up our top five takeaways to help you craft your 2022 summer internship programs better, now during COVID and in the longer term. 

1. Students are format-agnostic when it comes to internships 

According to RippleMatch’s survey of about 4200 interns between Fall 2020 to Fall 2021, students had a positive experience regardless of remote, in-person, or hybrid status. When students were asked to rate their experience on a scale of 1 to 5 stars with 5 being the highest, remote internships were given 4.3, in-person internships 4.4, and hybrid internships 4.4 as well. This shows that students had a good internship experience regardless of the internship format. It is really about how well you craft these internship experiences for the interns. 

2. Remote internships are strong in project work, but still lacking in community

RippleMatch’s Fall 2020 survey found that intern work & professional development was well received, but community connections fell short. RippleMatch asked students to rate their remote internships and select the factors that contributed to a positive internship experience: students had a great experience professionally, but only 29% said community building with peers was a highlight. 

Some examples of how successful remote programs have developed community: 

  • Mentorship: For example, Accolade created a virtual internship program which matched each intern with a member of the Operations Leadership Team. You could also match interns with former interns or employees based on their area of interest. A great tool that helps facilitate this is Donut.
  • Affinity groups are another great way to foster an inclusive community – CBSi customized their community feature on Symba, to include a quick introduction to their peers’ interests, hobbies, quirks, and more. You could even create Slack communities for interns to interact with each other based on their interests.
  • Mental health check-ins: At Symba, we invite our interns and full-time employees to ‘Wednesday Wellness’ sessions where we connect over meditation, yoga, work/life balance workshops, dance classes, laughter therapy, and more.

3. Higher compensation is top of mind for in-person interns

According to SHRM, 2022 salary increases look to trail inflation in the U.S. Pay raises in the U.S. are returning to pre-pandemic levels but rising prices mean higher salaries aren’t likely to keep pace with inflation. The median total U.S. salary increase budgets for 2021 were 3 percent, on par with the previous 10 years, and projections for 2022 are also 3 percent, The Conference Board (a large-business membership and research association) reported in June 2021.

In-person internships involve a lot of expenses such as cost of relocating, office commutes, food, networking with employees outside of working hours, and so on. Even if you do provide employee housing or commuting stipends, there are still many other expenses interns need to budget for as often in-person internships are hosted in expensive urban hubs. Considering these expenses and the rate at which inflation is rising, earning an income that assists a comfortable standard of living is top of mind especially for newcomers to the workforce.

To identify an appropriate pay rate for your interns:

  • Look at the cost of the standard of living in your internship location
  • Review industry standards for entry-level employees and pay a comparable hourly wage, stipend, or salary

What you pay your intern will influence their expectation for their base salary if brought on full-time. Show them you would compensate them well from the start.

4. When evaluating full-time return offers, it’s the real-life interactions that influence offer acceptance 

The top two reasons interns accepted a return offer from the company they interned with was the company culture and their experiences working with managers throughout the program. Here, it’s really important to note that people do matter. While interns are working remotely and they care about work-life balance, they also care about personal interactions. 

5. Show your interns you are there for them

Regardless of the program format you select for your 2022 summer internship, show your interns you are there for them by: 

  • Offering workshops (virtual or in-person) to educate your interns on work-life balance strategies
  • Being straight up with your interns if there is a job opportunity at the end of their program. Do this before they even start, so expectations are set. And if there are no post-internship job opportunities at your company or organization, offer other avenues to help them to continue growing their careers. This could be in the form of any introductions you can make within your network, setting them up with resources that you’re aware that they take advantage of, or writing a strong reference letter.
  • Paying them, and paying them well enough. It’s also important to teach them how they can best save and invest their earnings so they learn how to be fiscally responsible.

Watch the full webinar here for more internship program design tips and recommendations. Good luck on your 2022 summer internship programs!

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