Student experiences don’t have to be cancelled this summer - Here’s how

There’s no doubt that the impacts of COVID-19 have derailed many summer plans, including internship programs. However, this summer doesn’t have to be a dent in a student’s career journey, but a unique opportunity for them to explore project-based work and experiential learning.
June 16, 2020
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There’s no doubt that the impacts of COVID-19 have derailed many summer plans, including internship programs. According to the Globe and Mail, approximately 40% of summer placements have been reduced or cancelled entirely as a result. These are normally an important part of university and college students’ career, giving them the opportunity to gain experience in their field before graduating. Without the hands-on work, the implications are long-lasting as students get closer to the possibility of being underemployed after graduation.

A challenging labour market

Students aren’t alone in facing the devastating impacts of a global pandemic; companies are being forced to lay off employees and close their offices as a result of economic challenges. With fewer resources to achieve their business goals, they’re less likely to pursue new initiatives. This could be the most challenging labour market we’ve faced in our lifetimes as our normal processes and daily operations are completely disrupted. Schools are working to find alternatives for their students who have rescinded job offers that prevent them from completing co-op requirements to graduate, while companies are unsure how to reach their business goals with a remote or reduced workforce.

Virtual internships: The solution

Virtual internships are a quick solution for many long term problems. A company's projects, ranging from field placements and co-ops to applied research can be offered as a co-curricular experience or academic credit. For students, they will apply to the school who will assist them in connecting with a suitable employer. Since virtual internships are a hybrid of many traditional placements, its benefits are slightly different.

For employers: An opportunity to accomplish more 

Remote work isn’t just a necessary adaptive measure, it's also an advantage, as it allows for employers to overcome the restrictions of in-person placements with a flexible virtual placement. The lengthy hiring process is drastically reduced and makes room for access to students everywhere all in one place.

If the work doesn’t fit a typical summer job description, it can function as a project that doesn’t require full-time supervision. It’s up to the employer to decide whether they need full time or part-time work. If funding isn’t available to hire an intern on a full or part-time basis, there is also the option to offer positions for academic credit. As a less resource-intensive effort, virtual internships grant companies the ability to accomplish more in spite of the challenges of a recession.     

For students and schools: More experiences than ever

This summer doesn’t have to be a dent in a student’s career journey, but a unique opportunity for them to explore project-based work and experiential learning. 

As employers adapt to a virtual internship with the added accessibility, institutions can help connect students to a greater range of placements than before. Like employers, students can have the flexibility to work in their preferred hours depending on the commitment. Remote placements are an adjustment and virtual internships naturally account for that as project-based work provides clearer expectations and a goal to work towards. 

The concern around a virtual internship may be that students cannot practice soft skills as they normally would. However, students will continue to receive mentorship and supervision as they communicate and collaborate with other employees.

What’s next?

We’re likely going to have to live in this “new normal” for a while, so you may as well make the best of the situation as we continue to move towards establishing a long term solution.  Virtual internships are already in place on our platform, Riipen, where our network of employers and post-secondary schools are actively connecting. If you’re looking to get started or learn more about the process, email

About the author

Yogmaya Singh is a fourth-year Entrepreneurship student at the University of British Columbia, and a Marketing Intern at Riipen. Driven by her need to explore and grow, she's always found herself working within roles that challenge her. She's interested in all things music, enjoys trying new foods and dabbling with art.

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