'More resilient, adaptable and agile' | As COVID-19 impacts summer internships, officials say students will likely benefit

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- ABC7 News is dedicating more resources to building a better Bay Area. This means we are laser-focused on issues that viewers are dealing with: the education of our kids, the local economy, finding a new job, keeping the one you have, and how your workplace is changing.

For college students, there is plenty of uncertainty as they look toward the future. They are now entering the summer internship season, and it's unlike any we've seen before.

RELATED: Coronavirus impact: Bay Area companies look to virtual college internships amid pandemic

Bay Area native, Isaiah Eleazar is back from Purdue University. He was distance learning, and is now looking forward to his summer internship.

The Game Development and Design major was supposed to be in Washington State by now, settling in for his summer internship at a game development studio.

His internship starts on June 1st.

"I was actually starting to look for rooms in Washington," Eleazar told ABC7 News. "Looking for a place to stay, all that good stuff."

In late-April, the incoming college senior learned his internship would be going remote.

RELATED: Coronavirus: Economists predict 2020 college graduates will have tough time entering job market

He said there are experiences he knows he will never get back.

"Losing that excitement of going to the studio and meeting the people," he mentioned. "And sort of getting the full experience, if you will. I'm just grateful that they didn't just cancel it out."

According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) executive director, Shawn VanDerziel, the move online is now common practice for interns during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Of the employers that we surveyed, about 83-percent of them have made adjustments to their internship programs for the summer," VanDerziel said. "46-percent of employers, at least through the end of April, had already made the decision that their interns would go to a virtual environment."

The association recently conducted a poll to explore college recruiting and hiring plans, and to track changes to internship programs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Of the more than 400 large employers surveyed, the NACE found other changes included shortening the length of the summer internship, or canceling the opportunity altogether.

RELATED: Bewildered high school seniors may have to do freshman year from home

NACE found that the percentage of employers moving interns to a virtual work space has grown from 36-percent at the start of April, to 46-percent by the month's end.

The survey also found the percentage of employers shortening the length of their internship programs had increased during April, from 35-percent at the beginning, to 41-percent by the end.

Eleazar expressed he had concerns about how this virtual experience, and how it might impact real world work experience.

"With me not being actually at the studio, I feel like I wouldn't be able to show them all that I have to offer as a candidate," he admitted.

"I do believe that me being granted this opportunity to work remote is also an advantage," he countered. "Considering that some people did lose their opportunities, unfortunately."

ABC7 News brought Eleazar's concerns to VanDerziel. To maximize the modified summer internship season, he explained:

- Adaptability is key

- Don't isolate

- Make sure to effectively communicate with managers and colleagues

- Clarify expectations

- Remember this situation is unexpected for everyone, employers included

"It's a little unexpected for everyone- both for the employer as well as the student," VanDerziel said. "There will be a number of obstacles in the way that everybody is working through together."

There are also many challenges to overcome. "They may or may not have the equipment available to use for that internship. They may or may not have the surroundings that are appropriate for that particular internship, and they also don't have the connectivity to the company or to their managers because they're remote as opposed to in-person," VanDerziel told ABC7 News.

However, he believes the challenges offer these students real world work experience.

"Students who go through internships this summer, in the virtual space, will have a leg up in the future because the environment is going to move even more virtual because of the experience that we've had," he explained. "These students are going to be seen as being more resilient, more adaptable and more agile. And so they will have a leg up in the end."

To explore the results of NACE's recent quick poll, click here.

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