Sixty-six New York Tech students participated in the Internship Certificate Program (ICP) during the spring semester, eager to gain valuable hands-on experience and develop skills in a wide range of work environments. Then the global pandemic hit, shuttering offices and changing the nature of their internships.
According to Adrienne McNally, director of experiential education, students were on their way to earning certificates by working as architecture, finance, healthcare, IT, graphic design, sales, marketing, and social media interns, among others. “Sixty-three percent of placements were able to continue remotely when the COVID-19 crisis shut down New York,” McNally noted.
While they may not have anticipated the pivot from in-person to remote working, participating students were up to the challenge. Reflecting on their experiences, students shared some of their insights and key takeaways, as well as some of the unexpected benefits of their new situation.
- Many said the changed work environment helped them focus more on developing professional communication skills. Since they couldn’t rely on speaking face-to-face, they learned the importance of communicating professionally on the phone and through email and text with their colleagues and supervisors, and how to maintain professional relationships remotely.
- Participants found ways to pitch-in and share additional skills, beyond those in their job descriptions. They helped their employers with their websites and social media and applied what they’d learned in the classroom to teach colleagues how to use software programs to improve their businesses.
- The remote work environment often increased a sense of urgency and created additional demands on the interns and other employees. Even though students were working and taking classes remotely, their employers often expected faster results.
- Some architecture students gained a new appreciation for virtual open houses. Traditionally used for buyers and sellers, one intern’s employer recognized how virtual open houses and tours can also be used to give architects access to spaces remotely for design purposes.
The Office of Experiential Education offers support to ICP participants to ensure they meet their learning goals, develop the skills employers want, and receive evaluations from their internship supervisors they can use for future recommendations and other opportunities.
Students who participate in ICP are frequently offered continuing employment at the organization where they completed their internship. Remarkably, despite the challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic this semester, more than 80 percent of program participants reported they have received offers to continue in their placements, including internships and full-time work. For example, Rikin Shah was an IT intern at Opal Group. Before his internship was suspended, he was able to build relationships with his boss and co-workers that ultimately led the company to confirm that he has a guaranteed internship when operations resume this fall.
Since its inception, nearly 2,000 New York Tech students earned certificates through the Internship Certificate Program.