Unravelling the future of internships

Preparing the next generation workforce for what will be the new hybrid working world

We have witnessed both good and bad outcomes from the pandemic – especially within education. Over the years, this sector has been able to provide a large choice of experiences to students to help them navigate their career, but the pandemic has opened a pandora’s box, particularly for graduates and postgraduates who are struggling to enter the job market.

Across the globe, we have seen businesses struggle this past year, with some even shutting down. Smaller companies may not have been able to pay off their debt; businesses like restaurants and salons, which thrive on in-person services, have been affected by lockdowns, with the reduced purchasing power having a ripple effect; and companies may have been technologically weak, finding it hard to incorporate digital into their system. However, it’s not only the smaller businesses that have suffered, but also a slew of larger businesses like Apple, Barnes & Noble, Ford Motor Company, General Motors, and Walt Disney, which have had to either permanently close down in some of the locations or indefinitely shut down to save costs.

Dwindling opportunities

Amid the brutal job losses, it wasn’t difficult to understand that budding graduates were slowly losing their opportunity to kickstart their career. A Eurofound 2020 report suggested that 40% of Europe’s current working population adopted teleworking after being hit by the virus, as opposed to the 15% before the outbreak. A sudden shift of this proportion posed a multitude of challenges in workplaces. As organisations struggled to navigate through the crisis, trying to accommodate their existing workforce in a remote working environment, internships took the brunt in an unprecedented manner, with many moving to a virtual model, some getting deferred and most getting cancelled. Most companies still hiring for internships restricted their recruitment to select universities and had a strict barrier on the number of hires.

On the brighter side, the situation did lead to new explorative experiences for students. Organisations came forward with learning opportunities through solutions such as virtual internships, competitions, collaborative tools, and job aggregator platforms.

Agile business solutions

Most organisations who could switch to a remote working model effectively also chose to run their internships virtually. At Infosys, we have converted nearly 99% of our workforce to a work-from-home model since March 2020. Similar measures were undertaken to ensure that interns on our flagship program InStep also received the necessary support to work from home. This helped us maintain our talent pipeline for the upcoming quarters while preparing tomorrow’s workforce to function in a remote working environment, as much of the world looks at adopting a hybrid working model in the post-COVID era.

In 2020, Infosys recruited 186 interns from 19 countries and 75 universities worldwide as a part of its InStep program. These interns worked under the mentorship of Infosys leaders on a vast range of projects. Tackling problem statements allowed students to leverage cutting-edge technology, but also challenged them to address new age real-time problems.

The importance of internships

Internships have always been a crucial part in the lives of budding graduates and postgraduates. It is one of the most critical ways of increasing a person’s marketability and acts as a minor form of formal training before they attend a full-time job. It’s also their first stint in the industry, allowing them to network and meet professionals in the field, which is of the utmost importance during this time. However, over and above all of this, one of the most simple and critical things internships can do for students is helping them unravel their likes and dislikes. This has a prominent effect on the choices they make, their job satisfaction, skillset, and more.

One of the major suggestions for businesses would be to understand the role of a virtual setting in days to come. Companies are going to opt for a hybrid model of working to adapt to the new normal, to make it convenient for employees and to save costs. Therefore, along with enabling a smooth transition, it’s also important to train the budding workforce to adapt to the new normal and different ways of working. This requires collaboration with educational institutions by helping them change the status quo. Waiting for things to get back to normal might be the first rule to avoid while running a business in such difficult times. Educating ourselves and others to successfully adapt to the changed world would be akin to finding our own normal amid chaos.

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