Internships go virtual as coronavirus crisis upends plans

“We recognize that many companies have had to make the difficult decision to cut back, downsize or go virtual with their internship program,” Doman said.

Summer work for students will look different this year, with no ability to congregate. Many will look to laptops instead of networking in offices or venturing out into the field.

A list on Microsoft Corp.’s GitHub regularly tracks which companies continue and cancel internships, the New York Times reported. The publication reports that hundreds of companies have eliminated their internship programs or withdrawn offers.

“We strongly believe that we have a whole generation of top talent sitting idle this summer,” Doman said. “So, through no fault of the companies, they had to cancel their programs. However, we firmly believe there has never been a greater need to continue that commitment to the interns they have recruited.”

But some are going digital. Detroit-based DTE Energy Co. will welcome 500 interns this summer, with nearly all of them working remotely. He is working with Detroit Grow Detroit’s Young Talent youth employment initiative, which is offering online training for youth this summer. The utility company has programs for high school and college students, with wages ranging from about $11 to $24 an hour.

DTE reduced the weekly working hours of interns from 40 to 24-30. About two-thirds of the hours will be spent on job-specific work, while the other third will be spent on other activities such as “Motivational Monday”, “Wellness Wednesday” and “Interactive Thursday”. Interns’ time could be spent recording invoices, observing mentors, and taking virtual tours of the various DTE businesses. Your regular job development offerings in resume writing, mock interviews and the like will also be online.

About 5 percent of interns will have “a chance to come on site,” maybe one day a week, said Tracy DiSanto, manager of workforce planning and analytics at DTE.

“It’s a combination of reasons,” said Diane Antishin, vice president of human resources and chief of the office of diversity and inclusion, when asked why DTE reduced hours. “There is an element of cost right now, but also a recognition that sitting in front of a computer for 40 hours a week can be emotionally and physically draining.”

DTE will also be loaning out laptops for the summer. You will use software platforms through Dearborn-based Educational Data Systems Inc. and VirtualJobShadow.com.

“We figured out ways to use technology platforms to deliver all of that and we’re very proud to keep our commitment to summer internships… We’re very proud to continue this and do everything we can to deliver,” Antishin said.

DTE has also released a toolkit on how other companies can start online internships.

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