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  • Communication With Interns Critical During Uncertain Times

    March 30, 2020 | By NACE Staff

    Internships
    An intern communicates with a university relations and recruiting professional during the COVID-19 outbreak.

    TAGS: best practices, internships, operations, spotlight, coronavirus

    Spotlight for Recruiting Professionals

    During the uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic, it is important for employers to communicate with their interns about the status of their summer internship programs.

    Barrett Industries has done so by reaching out to all of its interns to provide an update that includes an acknowledgment of the anxiety of the situation and assurances about the approach the firm is taking.   

    “The primary question we’ve been receiving is whether or not we were continuing with our internship plans,” says Andrew Shelton, Barrett Industries’ director of talent acquisition.

    “These college students are trying to plan for class requirements, graduation requirements, and their future. If we are unable to host them for the summer, they will need time to seek other opportunities. Thankfully, we have been in close contact with each of the interns we have planned to bring on board, and have assured them that we are moving forward with our program and look forward to having them with us.”

    Shelton points out that it was critical for Barrett Industries to get ahead of the questions as much as possible.

    “[By doing so,] our interns know that we haven’t forgotten about them and that we are planning to bring them on board for their summer internship,” he says.

    “We sent our first mass email to interns on March 23 [see the body of the email below] and plan to provide an update within two weeks or sooner, should anything change.

    Shelton says the focus on communication underscores Barrett Industries’ dedication to the next generation of its work force. 

    “Throughout the country, so many colleges and universities have transitioned to remote learning for the remainder of the school year,” he notes.

    “Additionally, many seniors may not have a graduation ceremony because of this pandemic. We are doing our best to create some normalcy for students who had planned internships with Barrett Industries, as well as our parent company, Colas, Inc. Therefore, we are planning on starting our internships on time in May, as planned. If conditions dictate, we will look to delay the start date and have internships last as long as possible.”

    Barrett Industries is engaged in road and infrastructure construction, so it is likely that the firm will be operating this summer. It currently offers internships in construction, manufacturing, accounting, human resources, IT, along with environmental and mining engineering.

    “At this time, we plan to have our internships on site, but we will make adjustments as needed to blend on-site and virtual learning to maintain the safety of our employees and our interns,” Shelton points out.

    He offers several suggestions for communicating effectively with interns during this crisis:

    • Be forthcoming and factual, while also providing optimism—Barrett Industries communicated its current intent to go forward as planned for May, and assured everyone that it was monitoring current events that could result in a change.
    • Pay attention to the message’s tone—Tone is critical, given all of the tangible and emotional concerns involved. Interns want the work experience and pay from the internship, and also want to know their health concerns are shared by their internship company. People remember how you made them feel.
    • Stress your concern for your employees—Barrett Industries included elements in the communication that described how the health and safety of its employees is the firm’s highest priority and how it feels this class of interns is its strongest yet. Shelton says the sentiments are sincere on both counts, and added that these elements would be well-received and could have recruiting benefits among the interns.   

    “Things seem to be changing daily with this pandemic, and new information is available consistently throughout the day,” Shelton says.

    “It is also important to take everything into account before making any final decisions. We have successfully made alternative accommodations for employees to continue to do their job while remaining healthy and safe. It is important that interns are treated in the same fashion. Be patient and thorough, and make sure you are communicating as best as you possibly can during this trying time.”  

    Body of the email Barrett Industries sent to its interns on March 23:

    We understand that starting an internship can be filled with questions, and the recent COVID-19 epidemic may have added an extra layer of uncertainty. As an organization, we have taken precautionary measures to ensure the safety of our employees – both in the office and in the field – to prevent the spread of infection.

    With that having been said, we look forward to welcoming you into our internship program as planned. Although we do not expect any disruption to onboarding and the program as a whole, we will continue to monitor developments around the world and in the United States and communicate with you directly if any adjustments need to be made.

    Currently most of our office-based employees are working remotely. Where we are able to engage in field operations, we are doing so in a manner consistent with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

    Within Barrett and the Colas group, there is nothing more important than the health and safety of our employees. As such, company leaders are monitoring current events and actions with policies being adjusted as warranted.

    Again, we look forward to welcoming you to our team. We feel that our 2020 internship class is our most impressive ever and will contribute to the ongoing success of our company.