The Future of Internships
The landscape of work is changing around the world. More business leaders every day are telling their employees to work from home, indefinitely.
Virtual teaming is becoming a core part of organizational cultures, large and small, across all industries around the world. Consequently, many companies are now rethinking their hiring, training, and on-boarding processes. This is especially true with internship programs for young talent.
As a result of the COVID-19 Pandemic, most summer internships have been canceled or delayed, but notably, just about 1/3rd of employers are for the first time, “Going Virtual”.
Since a typical hallmark feature of internships has always been immersive office visits filled with on-site networking and mentoring, the concept of “virtual internships” is brand new.
At CapSource, we’ve been helping universities build and scale “internship-like” mostly virtual experiential learning programs since Fall 2017. The learning experiences that we have customized for our 60+ educational partners, including The University Richmond and The University of Notre Dame, have all been based on interactive project-based collaborations that have allowed students a chance to get out into the real world and gain experience solving real problems for real business leaders.
The 300+ company partners we’ve worked with to-date including The American Cancer Society, DoorDash, and Campari have all joined a student recruiting revolution that enables them to meet, qualify, and hire talent based on carefully designed team-oriented project-based virtual collaborations, or as we we call it, “Virtual Internship Programs”.
So for starters, what exactly is an internship?
According to NACE, the highly regarded National Association for College Employers, “An internship is a form of experiential learning that integrates knowledge and theory learned in the classroom with practical application and skills development in a professional setting.
Internships give students the opportunity to gain valuable applied experience and make connections in professional fields they are considering for career paths; and give employers the opportunity to guide and evaluate talent.”
At CapSource, we believe experiential learning allows students to practice using a combination of soft and technical skills to develop real outcomes for real stakeholders who are willing to provide coaching and feedback along the way.
What makes experiential learning unique from all other types of learning is actually less about the learning experience itself and more about the learning outcomes. When experiential learning is successful, it results in “reference-worthy experience” that can be added to the resume, showcased on LinkedIn, and discussed during job interviews.
Whether it’s helping American Cancer Society Develop their Young Professional Board Strategy or Coinsource, a Bitcoin ATM Operator, Launch a B2B Strategy (showcased below), student interns are learning, networking, and developing real solutions for real organizations as emerging professionals. The experience that student interns gain through these engagements is exactly what they need to distinguish themselves and prove that they’re not only prepared to enter the workforce, but also knowledgeable and experienced enough to meaningfully contribute to the team.
Although it’s pretty clear that experiential learning is valuable for the students, in order for the concept to work at scale (CapSource’s mission and vision) we acknowledge the importance of ensuring positive benefits for the organizations that host these transformative learning experiences.
The Experiential Bargain
CapSource recently delivered a webinar to the IACBE business school community about the experiential bargain, or the tradeoff that occurs between students engaged in experiential learning and the organizations that host them, which is referred to as flipped or “experiential hiring.”
For the experiential bargain to work, students need to walk away with new skills, professional connections, and reference-worthy experience working on real projects for real business stakeholders. In exchange, companies derive useful, unique insights from the emerging young professionals while getting a chance to on-board, train, and hire top performers.
This powerful bargain, if orchestrated and managed correctly, is a win-win for both learners and employers. So, naturally this begs the question, whose responsibility is it to organize these high-impact learning experiences?
The Role of Institutions in the Experiential Bargain
We see institutions playing a crucial role in organizing, facilitating, and credentialing these collaborations. We understand that for higher-ed institutions, this is a fairly novel approach to educating and training students for the professional work environment.
CapSource helps schools build and scale these types of high-impact learning programs. The main challenges we help institutions overcome are in the “organization” phase above.
For example, we offer Company Sourcing & Project Design Services, which enable educators to request unique learning experiences based on narrow academic teaching goals and timelines as well as various company and topical requirements to participate.
We also offer a customizable, white-label experiential learning software solution called CapSource CONNECT, which allows schools to centralize and scale the process they use to organize and facilitate project-based experiential learning engagements.
Carefully Designed, Part-Time, Project-Based, Team-Oriented, Virtual Internships
Since launching in 2017, CapSource has coordinated hundreds of carefully designed part-time, team-oriented, project-based virtual internship experiences for students enrolled in undergraduate and graduate Business and STEAM programs around the world.
The success of our model hinges on:
- Carefully Designed: We align learning objectives and professional interests with company goals so everyone wins
- Part-Time: We require 10-20 hours per week of students and recognize they are enrolled in other classes and/or need to generate income through other, less professionally oriented work
- Project-Based: We design clear project scopes with milestones like case studies so that they’re research oriented and require little company maintenance and oversight
- Team-Oriented: We enable student interns to work in teams while collaborating and learning from peers
- Virtual Internships: We help companies engage with students through Q&A sessions to provide feedback to student intern teams virtually through email, text, and web conferences
This collaboration model works extremely well because it requires much less oversight, overhead, and maintenance for busy companies while enabling students to fine-tune and showcase their skills as eager learners and prospective employees.
Purchasable Configurable Engagement Formats
Although there are vendors that exist to help students find companies that already offer internships, until CapSource, there was really no organization dedicated to helping both institutions and companies properly design and launch education-focused internship-like experiences.
For regulatory purposes, according to the Fair Labor Standards Act, it is crucial that internship programs are designed to be educational, compliment (not displace) the work of paid employees, and accommodate education program calendars and teaching goals, especially if they’re unpaid. Plus, it certainly helps if the students are provided credit and recognition for their work from their institution and opportunities to gain follow-on employment if they succeed.
In order to make experiential learning and hiring more accessible and turn-key, CapSource has worked towards standardizing the most successful and scalable engagement formats so that they can be easily purchased, configured, and implemented by both educational institutions and companies. Below we showcase the most commonly used engagement formats by our partners so you can explore the format that might work best for you and your organization.
A Co-Op is an independent study or a research project for one student. Although peer-to-peer learning is not present in this model, students get a chance to directly work with education and company mentors as they research solutions for businesses and job functions that directly interest them.
Capstones or Basic VIPs are the most popular model we offer since they allow a whole group of students to work on carefully designed projects with help from faculty and company mentors. This model scales up to 6 students and includes peer-to-peer learning as they work together to propose viable solutions to real business challenges.
Live Case Collaborations or VIP Collaborations are a unique model that enables companies and institutions to scale experiential learning so they can reach more student interns at once. This model enables student teams to work on different but synergistic projects. This model works best when educators serve as facilitators to ensure inter-group collaboration and company communication runs smoothly.
Live Case Competitions or VIP Competitions are another version of Live Cases that also enables companies and institutions to scale experiential learning so they can reach more student interns at once. Instead of having each team work on different projects, this model enables student teams to compete and come up with the best insights based on a real business challenge.
How SCHOOLS can get started:
If you’re interested in adding experiential learning to your course or program, you can request Co-Ops, Capstones, and Live Cases today.
Our sourcing and design service is designed to connect schools, their educators, and their students with appropriate companies interested in collaborating through our experiential learning engagement formats given narrow academic goals and timelines.
For example, Adelphi University has been able to use our Capstone Format to offer Project-Based Virtual Summer Internships for their honors students this summer interested in working with nonprofits. In this program, students work in small groups of 2-6 directly with the host company in order to solve a company challenge. Virtual internships have included projects related to marketing, grant writing, CSR with partners like New York Industries for the Disabled and The American Cancer Society.
Adelphi University is also one of our many educational partners making use of our white-label CONNECT Platform, which enables schools to build and scale their experiential learning programs by focusing on a customized, scalable approach to sourcing, designing, and managing project-based learning collaborations with industry third parties.
If you’re interested in scaling experiential learning at your school by leveraging CapSource’s proven framework and customizable software system, you can schedule a demo today.
How COMPANIES can get started:
We’ve found that a lot of companies need help organizing education-focused internships so that they’re low maintenance but also high impact for everyone involved.
CapSource’s Virtual Internship Programs (VIP) are customized, facilitated, easy-to-manage, high-impact, fully virtual internship experiences.
Our programs enable student interns to take a deep dive into your product, industry, and business model, ensuring an educational experience that culminates in real-world skills for interns and helpful feedback for the company.
CapSource’s VIP Software and Service helps companies:
- design their intern program,
- find and on-board the appropriate students,
- deliver the meaningful, collaborative experience,
- assess intern performance,
- hire the right team members.
If the benefits of experiential hiring are clear and you’re itching to get started, you can start building your Virtual Internship Program today.
How STUDENT INTERNS can get started:
We’re always happy to set up custom experiential learning programs for students. Please schedule time with our on-boarding team to begin customizing your project requirements.
We also encourage you to share CapSource with your educators to see if it might be a fit for one of your classes. If you’re interested in joining a Virtual Internship Program, you should register today!
Interested in learning more?
Watch videos featuring our stakeholders, check out our recorded webinars, or read more articles on our blog.
Or, feel free to schedule time with our on-boarding team to discuss how CapSource can help support your experiential learning and experiential hiring needs.
Jordan Levy, Founder & Executive Director at CapSource, is a Forbes 30 Under 30 and serial education technology entrepreneur. He has started two EdTech companies that help higher-ed programs bridge the skills gap for their students through experiential learning. His method is to integrate real companies into the education process through hands-on collaborations that expose learners to new circumstances with real stakeholders, challenges, and outcomes. Outside of work, Jordan is passionate about cooking, photography, networking, mixology, travel, sailing, tennis, public speaking, and coaching/connecting fellow entrepreneurs.