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  • Communication, Connection Keys for High-Quality Remote Internships

    April 02, 2020 | By NACE Staff

    A student intern signs online to fulfill some hours with his internship at MITRE.

    TAGS: best practices, internships, operations, nace insights, coronavirus

    Spotlight for Recruiting Professionals

    Last summer, MITRE hosted approximately 500 interns, including 400 new and 100 returning students. It was tracking to do the same this year until the coronavirus outbreak. Still, the company has not wavered on its plans to hold its summer internship program this year.

    “It is our mission to develop students to meet MITRE’s and the nation’s future work force needs,” says Angie Morris, MITRE’s manager of student programs.

    “In support of our mission, we wanted to continue the program. Many students will start and grow meaningful careers as a result of their summer experiences. We believe that investing in student talent is a long term investment in the future.”

    Typically, MITRE’s summer internships were all on site, although for the past several years, the company has allowed high-performing interns who completed summer internships on site to work part time from campus.

    “We are planning to have 100 percent of our [summer] internships be virtual this year,” Morris notes.

    “Students will continue to work remotely until a company decision is made to allow employees to go back to work on site. We will permit those who are not near a site and have not relocated to continue to work remotely.”

    Morris says the company is currently adjusting its summer internship program in three key ways, including:

    • Determining the right number of interns to absorb on a project or in a department;
    • Changing intern projects, when necessary, by asking managers to reassess the work and if/how it can be done remotely, and if not, what other projects can be done to support the students; and
    • Asking students who were planning to relocate to alter those plans, since MITRE moved the program fully to remote. (Typically, about one-third of MITRE’s interns relocate temporarily for the summer.)

    “It has been a lot of work,” Morris says.

    “We are carefully considering our equipment distribution, orientation, and work management processes. We are also working with our hiring managers to ensure that they are equipped to provide a high-quality remote work experience to the interns. In addition, we have increased the frequency of our communications to both the interns and hiring teams in this uncertain time.”

    MITRE is providing weekly updates via email. It also follows up any email releases to the students with a post to its intern Slack channel and has weekly calls to review up-to-date information on its corporate policies and procedures. These include MITRE’s Student Remote Work Agreement, which covers several areas, including:

    • Effective date of arrangement;
    • Compliance with MITRE policies;
    • Work hours;
    • Work log and performance (optional, at the discretion of management);
    • MITRE-provided equipment, supplies, and software;
    • Proprietary or sensitive information;
    • Compliance with local zoning laws; and
    • Updating state tax forms and address.

    “We also use the form to record equipment the student has received and needs to care for,” Morris says.

    “We have the manager review the form with the student and both they and the student sign.”

    In addition, MITRE is working on ways to connect interns virtually for the purpose of networking, building cohort, staying engaged, and having some fun. Some ideas Morris is considering include:

    • Delivering a pizza to the interns’ locations on the first day;
    • Holding a virtual dinner party with for food delivery to interns’ houses and convening virtually for some conversation and laughs;
    • Having a “question of the week” for managers to pose;
    • Using polling software to spontaneously ask fun questions and share responses;
    • Holding an online scavenger hunt;
    • Telling employees at the start of a meeting that they have to give “an aha, an apology, or an appreciation” at the end;
    • Holding virtual coffee breaks;
    • Pairing up interns for randomized video calls;
    • Creating virtual gaming leagues;
    • Connecting interns to employee resource groups; and
    • Playing icebreaker games.

    “I hope that every company will do what it can to support an internship program, even if it means reshaping the work, moving the start dates out or, if needed, reducing the number of interns,” Morris says.

    “For every student that we will host at MITRE this summer, we believe we are investing in their future and in ours.”