6 things to know about virtual internships post-COVID

Here are some things to keep in mind as students seek internships during the 2021-22 school year

Virtual internships will outlast COVID because they give businesses access to a much broader pool of candidates, particularly underrepresented students, says one provider.

To get a handle on the climate for internships post-COVID, District Administration spoke with Kate Haydon, the director of academy development at NAF, a national nonprofit that partners with employers and with districts to create CTE-based “schools within schools.”

Here are some things to keep in mind as students seek internships during the 2021-22 school year:

1. Location, location, location. This summer, NAF is helping employers provide work experiences to students in other states. The healthcare company, Optum, for instance, is based in Minneapolis but has recruited students from far beyond Minnesota. NAF itself has brought on virtual interns from around the nation, Haydon says.

Virtual interns said connecting with other students from around the country was a highlight of their online work experiences. “It helps kids get out of their box and see there are kids like them in other states,” Haydon says. “That was an eye-opening experience for us and for our business partners.”

2. Expanding the curriculum. Virtual internships also allow administrators to offer programs that are not a regular part of their district’s or school’s curricula.

Online internships provide particular value to rural districts, where there are fewer businesses looking for interns, Haydon says.

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3. Recruitment and collaborationNAF’s in-school academies are based on key pillars that include data-based decision-making, open enrollment to expand access, and collaboration time for instructors.

4. Future-focused. Academically, there’s a strong emphasis on project-based learning and early college experiences, such as dual enrollment and advanced placement, Haydon says.

NAF’s in-school academies also host career fairs and teachers conduct mock job interviews to help students hone professional skills. Job-shadowing allows students to focus in on potential careers before they choose an internship.

5. Advisory boards. A crucial part of NAF’s model are advisory boards comprised of business leaders and representatives of higher education. These advisors keep schools informed on industry trends, workforce needs, and gaps in curriculum.

6. Value of work. Students in NAF internships get paid for a variety of reasons. “We want them to know their work is valued,” Haydon says. “And some students can’t quit a job to take an unpaid internship.”

Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for District Administration he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.

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