COVID-19 impacts student internships, few cancelled

Career Services says few employers cancelled internships, choosing to alter structure instead

Cathy Keates, director of Career Services and experiential learning, said students will get credit for remote internships.
Journal File Photo

Callie Stirling, Sci ’21, was supposed to start her 12-month internship on May 4. 

“I was informed at the beginning of April that a global decision was made for the company I was meant to be interning with to cancel all student related jobs and internships,” she wrote in a statement to The Journal

Stirling said she received another call in the first week of May informing her that the internship location had received clearance to employ students again. She’s now due to start in July. 

“It was very stressful for me. I had moved from Kingston back to Calgary to be with my family and had pretty much come to terms with starting school again in the fall,” Stirling wrote. 

The news that the internship was resuming meant she had to move back to Ontario. “I basically had to rearrange my life twice,” she wrote.

Stirling also said, according to her company, 90 per cent of the internship will be in person. “A lot of my on-boarding is online, as well as my internship departures session with the university.”

According to Stirling, she was having trouble contacting her employer to discuss details about the internship. 

“Everyone is still very helpful, but I feel as though most communication is done frantically,” Stirling wrote. “I think HR departments have bigger problems right now than hiring students, so sometimes it’s hard to get in contact to find out important details that I need regarding my internship.”

Amid discussions about the fall term and remote learning, Stirling said she expects many students may not be coming back to campus, including many of her friends.

She said she’d rather complete her internship as planned to make money instead of returning to campus. If not, she explained, she would be spending her undergrad on campus alone while talking to her friends over Zoom, an online video-chatting platform. 

“I think an important part of your undergrad is the friends you make and the memories you share with them,” Stirling said. “Especially at a University like Queen’s, where the culture of the campus and the student atmosphere plays a huge role in the experience.”

Stirling said the Queen’s Undergraduate Internship Program (QUIP) at Career Services has been accommodating of her situation and providing options about how to proceed.

According to Cathy Keates, director of Career Services and Experiential Learning at Queen’s, the QUIP team is providing support for both employers and students impacted by any changes to existing and future internships. 

“[We are] working closely with any students who are looking for a QUIP internship, and with any current QUIP interns who would like support for their unique circumstances,” Keates wrote in a statement to The Journal

“So far, the number of students starting internships in 2020 remains strong,” Keates said.  “Only a few employers have had to cancel; the students affected are being supported in either finding a new internship or creating new plans.” 

Some employers required more time to set up remote onboarding structures, delaying the spring start dates of their internships as far as June or July, according to Keates.

“Students who finish those internships next spring will still get the professional internship designation,” she said. “Students absolutely get credit for remote internships as they are doing meaningful work, but from a different location.” 

According to Keates, it’s unclear which internships will remain remote and which will eventually move to a worksite.

“Employers are following the advice of public health officials, and the nature of work and worksite vary significantly across sectors and employers,” she wrote. “Everyone is prioritizing public health requirements.”

According to Keates, many employers are continuing to offer new internship opportunities with start dates in September.   

“We expect to see many more new internship opportunities for students over the coming months,” said Keates. “Students who are interested in QUIP, but not yet registered, can learn more at [our website].”

Editors' Note

The Journal's News Editor, Claudia Rupnik, is currently an employee of Career Services. She recused herself from the reporting and editing of this story.

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