As a result of travel restrictions and other measures introduced due to the COVID-19 epidemic, the implementation of traditional internship programs has become more difficult, especially for international programs. To overcome these challenges, the EnterMode project consortium has developed a “virtual internship program”, a modified version of the original EnterMode internship model adapted to a virtual environment.
The program can be implemented in a completely virtual or in a mixed way. In the former case, the student communicates with the mentor and co-workers exclusively through online channels, in the latter case personal and online periods can alternate (possible solutions include among others weekly alternation or one or two personal appearances per week).
A prerequisite for the successful implementation of a virtual internship program is that the intern has the necessary technical equipment (computer, broadband Internet access, communication software) and remote access to the resources needed to complete the tasks. It is also important to note that not all companies or all challenges (problems to be solved by the intern) are suitable for virtual implementation.
Distant working challenges the interns in many new ways: it is harder to build personal relationships with colleagues, there is a lack of informal interactions, and it can be more difficult to build commitment. The mentor’s job will become even more valuable, and it will be an important task to motivate the intern and ensure that they feel part of the company.
The EnterMode virtual internship model provides practical suggestions and advice to corporate mentors which could help them to put the model into practice. These include, for example, developing an accurate work plan, defining goals, milestones in more detail, and more frequent interactions with the mentor, especially at the beginning of the program.
Implementing a virtual internship program is challenging, but it can also bring many benefits to both the company and the student. Interns can also develop their info-communication skills, and experience the advantages and disadvantages of distance work. It allows for a flexible schedule so that students can join the internship program in addition to their studies or other assignments. International programs are also easier to implement, as the distance is not an insurmountable obstacle, students can choose from more possible internship positions, while companies can select the most motivated interns from several applicants.