Employers Weigh Internship Options in COVID-19 Era

Dave Moore, Staff Writer

Normally, this time of year, companies start contacting interns, nailing down their schedules, work assignments, and even their living arrangements.

But, as most anybody will note, 2020 is working out to be anything but normal.

While there’s no clear end date for the COVID-19 pandemic, companies still need to feed their talent pipelines to remain competitive after the pandemic ends, and interns are an effective way to do so.

That conundrum surfaced at a Wednesday, April 8, Dallas Regional Chamber Talent Attraction Council virtual meeting, which addressed the topic of how employers are handling complications brought by COVID-19.

“We do a lot of college recruiting,” said Luke Burton of Kimley-Horn. “In Texas, we have about 70 interns that are supposed join to us this summer.”

Because of the uncertainly caused by COVID-19, Barton said the company has had to call interns to tell them they’re uncertain what their start dates will be. Working virtually might be a solution for experienced hires, but interns can’t be mentored remotely, he said.

“I didn’t know if there’s anyone else in the same situation,” he shared.

Turns out, a number of major employers have been wrestling with the same question, and they shared their answers in virtual round-robin fashion.

Southwest Airlines

“What we decided to do with summer interns is to give them the option of a fall internship,” said Jenell Rayford of Southwest. She added that given the condition of the aviation industry right now, even a fall internship isn’t guaranteed. “We just wanted to give those kids the opportunity, let them know we still value their skill sets, and (want to add them) to our pipeline. Hopefully, we’ll keep them engaged.”

Thomson Reuters

Neeti Upreti of Thomson Reuters said her company is delaying start dates for interns who are supposed to join the firm as full-time staff to August.

“We are asking them to enjoy the summer, to take that break, and to come back in August,” she said. “We can provide them a fuller experience of getting them on-boarded, and really getting them set up.”

The conventional internships, meanwhile, are still undecided, she said.

“We’ve asked our managers, ‘If we were to do our internships virtually, how would they make it a meaningful internship?'”

She said while a lot of the work at Thomson Reuters can be done virtually, it’s still uncertain if a hiring manager will be able to determine if the work would be optimal for interns.


“We are a global accounting and consulting firm, and I think we have a couple thousand interns nationally each year,” said Lynsey Eppeneder, a partner at PwC. “We’ve been faced with the same predicament regarding internships.”

The firm has decided to make its internships virtual, and for them to last two to four weeks in July, Eppeneder said.

“There will be a flat salary amount,” she said. “The important aspect is that they will be guaranteed a full-time offer. We don’t want to lose an entire new hire class because we depend heavily on interns to fill associate ranks.”


USAA HR Regional Operations Lead Albert Chapman said the company has retooled its internship program as a virtual experience, with a potential in-person campus visit component as well.

“We’re almost treating it like in an executive MBA or an MBA program, where you do it virtually,” he said. Chapman added that if it’s safe to travel toward the end of the internship period, they might allow a visit to the USAA campus, so they can view its amenities.