Coveted summer internships, often a head start to a post-grad job, are fast falling through, according to a study by talent-acquisition software company Yello. The company surveyed more than 900 college students to find out how the global pandemic and the accompanying effects on schools has impacted accepted internships and opportunities.

According to the recent survey, 35% of students who’ve accepted summer internships learned the internship was canceled, and 24% of students have been told their internship will be virtual.

“As companies big and small consider internship next steps, we encourage them to adapt by offering remote options rather than canceling internships altogether,” Yello co-founder and CEO, Jason Weingarten said in a press release. “Continuing to invest in early talent development is crucial to the success of the future workforce, and is key to ensuring a lasting talent pipeline for your organization.”

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The results come as some education experts are recommending incoming college freshman defer because of the specter and unpredictability of the spread of the coronavirus.

And The College Board canceled planned SAT exams for May and June, and speculated on a “remote” test for the fall.

COVID-19 situation similar to 2008 recession

“We remember how difficult the 2008 recession was for both employers and student job seekers, and we know that the COVID-19 outbreak poses similar challenges,” said Weingarten. “The good news is that today’s technology makes hiring, on-boarding, and remote work easier.”

Major differences

Student reactions and preferences regarding virtual work, the study revealed, correlate to the students’ majors.

“We’re finding that business and computer science students want to connect with each other via virtual happy hours, while engineering majors prefer social media groups or team trivia events,” said Yello’s co-founder, Dan Bartfield, also in a press release. “It’s important for employers to provide the right opportunities for students to connect, depending on the types of interns they have.”

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The majority (41%) of students would like weekly virtual programming for the entire intern class, while 35% said “several times throughout the program” suffices, and 20% want class meetings two- to three-times weekly. Smaller percentages were for daily class meetings and the smallest percentage said they’d prefer working on their own project, rather than being in a programming intern class.

Employer advice

Yello offered employers suggestions for adjusting to internship programs during the pandemic:

1. Go virtual if you can.
2. Be communicative.
3. Advocate for your interns.
4. Plan virtual intern events.
5. Educate hiring managers on virtual work.

Weingarten said that adding canceled internships to resumes and job applications may be beneficial in the long run. “We understand the hesitation students may have in listing canceled internships on their resume,” he said.

“But we encourage young job seekers to consider including them, at least until they secure another internship or full-time offer. Even though no work was completed, these canceled internships show that an employer was interested in you, and that you stood out from other candidates. You earned a coveted spot at that company, and that’s worth noting when applying for future roles.”

Other key insights

(Yello predicted the first two insights listed below will increase further in the next few weeks.)

  • 85% of students do not plan on listing canceled internships on their resumes, because of lack of experience gained

  • 70% of students, despite sympathy for COVID-19’s impact on employers, are disappointed but understand cancellations

  • 67% of students with virtual internships want daily five- to 10-minute check-ins with their managers; 40% of the above want a longer once-a-week meeting

    20% are satisfied with the quick daily check-ins

    30% want a 30- to 60-meeting week

    7% prefer a 30- to 60-minute daily meeting

  • 64% of employers who canceled internships offered no compensation

  • 42% want video conferences “every now and then”

  • 30% want frequent video conferences with managers

  • 26% of students are upset about cancellations

  • 22% said video conferencing with managers “doesn’t matter”

  • 4% are relieved for the cancelation, citing “I didn’t want to work onsite during COVID-19”

  • Of those students who learned their internship was shifting from onsite to virtual

  • 51% said they were glad it wasn’t canceled.

  • 22% worried that the experience won’t be as good

  • 12% worry that won’t be able to prove they deserve a full-time job

  • 9% hoped to meet new people in person

The remaining three categories were: they were glad they didn’t need to travel because of COVID-19, “it might be pretty strange,” and other.

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Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto