Lakeland Community College has received an $85,000 grant from the Cleveland Foundation to develop and pilot a unique virtual internship program.
With remote work capabilities now the norm for many people, the college wants to prepare its students entering today's workforce with internship experiences that include the ability to do remote work.
Typically, students get their introduction to real-world work environments through on-site internships. But because of the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses closed their offices and shifted to remote work which resulted in no internship opportunities throughout the past months for students. Now that work-from-home has been implemented on such a large scale, employers are willing to explore how to best bring interns into the fold.
"We are very grateful for this Cleveland Foundation grant to help move our students' education forward. Engaging students in experiential learning of all kinds is critical as they move from students to becoming professionals in the workplace," said Rhonda Butler, interim director for career services and employer relations coordinator at Lakeland. "Virtual internship opportunities for Lakeland students will most certainly provide them with a competitive edge. This type of internship is extremely uncommon in two-year schools, yet the hard and soft skills needed to work remotely have become essential."
The program's aim is to identify best practices in virtual, or remote, internships that will enhance the experience for both students and employers. As part of the program's development, Lakeland administrators and faculty will partner with business, government and nonprofit leaders in the community to ensure that the virtual internship program is structured to meet their needs to train the next generation of employees.
"In such uncertain times, it is critical that we develop innovative ways for our students to continue to gain the benefits that experiential learning offers, as well as a comprehensive grasp of the skills needed to be productive and responsible while working remotely," said Butler.