UW–Madison’s Hora speaks with Washington Post about taking the internship online

UW-Madison’s Matthew Hora is quoted in a recent report from the Washington Post that’s headlined, “Corporate America is taking the internship online this summer. Some experiences can’t be replaced.”

Hora is a faculty member with the School of Education’s Department of Educational Policy Studies and the director of the Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions (CCWT).

Matthew Hora

The report begins: “College students have already been uprooted from their dorm rooms to their parents’ basements, forced to finish their semester online and faced with the dire prospect of graduating into the worst labor market since the Great Depression. Now, many can add something else to the list of experiences they’ll miss out on this year: A traditional internship.”

The coronavirus’s overall impact on internships and entry-level hiring could be huge, Hora tells the Post.

“I think this will end up being a pretty devastating event for college students,” Hora says in the report.

Hora points to industries like manufacturing, skilled trades and hard sciences where internships can’t easily go remote.

While the situation is far from ideal, remote internships are possible in some instances and there can be potential benefits.

The pandemic, Hora tells the Post, should reduce the number of internships that aren’t meaningful — one can’t pour coffee or make copies remotely, after all — while giving interns practice in remote work.

“As far as I know, very few career services departments do much training on that,” Hora tells the newspaper. “This is going to be a crash course.”

The Post explains how career services officers say colleges that didn’t give class credit or grant funding for virtual internships have started doing so, and may continue after this year.

The pandemic could also diversify candidates for internships, which Hora said have long been the “domain of rich kids. It’s not just money but social connections. Do you have a car? At least hypothetically, an online internship gets rid of that.”

The Post adds how experts say it will be exceedingly hard to replace the business lunch etiquette, office politics and impromptu networking lessons that an in-person internship has traditionally provided.

“What are some of the tacit expectations about how you dress, how you act in meetings?” Hora tells the Washington Post. Imparting that “takes somebody who’s patient and is either a natural or a trained teacher. It’s possible a remote internship could pull that off, but I don’t know. I’m skeptical.”

To learn much more about this important, nuanced topic, check out the full report from the Washington Post here.