Posted by Lizzie ● 21 September 2020

What do Students Think About Virtual Internships?

Earlier this year, COVID-19 changed everything. Some employers were forced to cancel internships, whereas others adapted quickly to make them fully virtual within a matter of days and weeks.

On RateMyPlacement.co.uk, we have already received over 500 reviews from students who were lucky enough to undertake internships and work experience virtually this summer.

We have conducted early research and can exclusively reveal four quantitative and four qualitative trends from the reviews in this blog. 

First up, let’s reveal four quantitative trends from the reviews…

1. Are Virtual Internships rated higher, lower or the same as face-to-face experiences?

The answer is higher! The average rating for virtual internships was 8.2 vs 7.8 across all of the 70,000 reviews on RateMyPlacement.co.uk. The early feedback is extremely positive, with 92% students recommending their virtual internship to a friend.

2. Lowest rated questions were:

  • Q13 - How were the networking/ social event opportunities? Rated 7.6 / 10
  • Q14 - Did you find out about activities that employees can get involved in outside of work? Rated 7.9 / 10

It’s understandable that these were the lowest scoring questions (yet still very high on average!) as there were fewer opportunities to get involved in socially or outside of work with it being virtual. Plus a lot of these students started while we were in lockdown.

3. The highest rated question was: 

  • Q9 - How much did the virtual experience help you in understanding the company culture? Rated 8.9 / 10

It’s great that this was ranked so highly as it can be hard to get culture and values across in a virtual environment. It’s brilliant to see that students didn’t miss out on this aspect virtually and the quote below really captures this:

“A lot of focus was put on understanding HSBC as a company and what their values are. The internship enabled you to see these values in real life and to gain an insight into what type of people work there and how it is definitely a company that wants people to feel comfortable no matter who they are or where they come from”  HSBC, Virtual Summer Intern, 2020

After discovering the above data within the reviews, we were excited to delve deeper into the reviews and in particular, the qualitative comments left by students openly sharing how they felt about their virtual internships. Here are the four key trends we found!

1. Students were super-grateful 
    • Plenty of work experience over Easter and Summer was cancelled and many of their peers didn’t get the experience they’d hoped for. Students fortunate enough to have their experience virtually, recognised this and were so grateful of their opportunity and this was reflected in the high ratings and positive comments.
2. Impressive organisation

    • The level of organisation to facilitate was recognised and students hugely valued the detail and structure laid out by HR teams. 
    • They said there was ample time factored in for both team time and individual tasks, which was really beneficial for their learning and development.

“The Early Careers Team did an amazing job with providing us with interesting and interactive content… The programme was very educational and a lot of fun.” Deutsche Bank Virtual Intern, 2020

“I would definitely recommend this virtual experience to anyone considering teaching who meets the criteria specific to Teach First. It was an inspiring 2 days which have confirmed to me that teaching is a legitimate career choice for my existent and developed skill sets. I will definitely be getting involved with this company again” Teach First Virtual Intern, 2020

1. Extroverts and introverts could shine
    • In the review comments, students recommended their peers to be prepared and to ask and answer questions. The virtual nature of the experience meant extroverts were able to ask questions openly, with introverts also able to digest information and submit well-thought out questions via various online platforms, without the fear of putting their hand up in a crowded room.
2. Finally, Graduate buddies were still really effective
    • Plenty of successful work experience schemes assign a graduate buddy to each student to answer all sorts of questions and help them settle in. Even with a virtual focus and shortened durations, graduate buddies were still assigned and this in particular, was rated highly by our reviewers.

With the advancements in technology, students’ digital capabilities and as the average ratings above show, the experience was rated extremely highly, we can therefore call the first Summer of virtual internships a rip-roaring success.

Are they here to stay? Yes and no! Pending how the pandemic plays out, we may be restricted to another year of virtual internships without choice, however in a post-pandemic world, I feel it will only benefit the shorter experiences. 

We have no doubt work experience schemes that last less than a month will be able to run just as efficiently and form just as good a talent pipeline for employers executed virtually. However for year-long placements and 8-12 week Summer Internships, the value in face-to-face engagement, the experience and learning a working environment provides, will be very hard to replace. 

RateMyPlacement Co-founder Ollie Sidwell was invited to discuss these findings on a webinar for the Institute of Student Employers recently, you can view the recording of that webinar by clicking below.

Watch the webinar

Lizzie also wrote another blog for ISE, which you can read here.

Topics: Industry Insights

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