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Internship programs are a fundamental steppingstone for anyone just starting their careers. This is truer in the tech industry than it is for any other career path. And it’s a win-win scenario for companies and career builders alike.

For tech students and new graduates, internship programs are the invaluable resume-building experiences that unlock the upper echelon of roles. And for your company, internship programs fill the recruitment funnel with new talent that could become the foundation for your company’s long-term success.

But the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the landscape of tech internship programs. In the wake of business disruption, is it better to cancel internship programs or keep them up and running? The companies finding ways to keep them intact may be setting themselves up better for long-term success.

The Consequences of Canceling Internship Programs

Many of the world’s biggest tech companies are canceling their internship programs as they try to stabilize operations during the pandemic. Companies like 23andMe, Groupon, Siemens, StubHub, and Yelp have outright canceled 2020 internship programs while others like Google, Adobe, Dropbox, and 1Passsword have put on hiring freezes.

Throughout the month of March, ZipRecruiter reported that the average daily count of open internships advertised fell 31% as students and new graduates are left wondering what is going to happen.

It’s easy to understand why internship programs are being canceled. Many large companies are just now trying to figure out how to move 100% of their operations remote, leaving little time and few resources to train new classes of interns.

However, companies like Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Cisco, HP, HubSpot, PayPal, and others have made the decision to go remote with their internship programs rather than canceling them altogether. And if we look at how the 2008 recession played out, it seems like that might be the better approach to support long-term success.

In the wake of the 2008 recession as students and recent graduates were looking for guidance on job hunting, Marilyn Mackes (then-Executive Director of the National Association of Colleges and Employers) discussed the importance of internships. She said that NACE surveys showed a “clear indication that relevant work experience matters regardless of the job market conditions” and that “in a poor economy, when employers do have jobs, they often look first to their own interns and co-op students.”

This is the primary lesson we need to remember as 2020 internship programs are canceled—that embracing a hiring model that focuses more on entry-level positions and internal promotion than external, senior-level hires will lead to long-term success. We’ve talked about this issue before. An over-emphasis on turning passive, senior-level talent into active candidates for your open positions can lead to high recruiting costs, more turnover, and greater potential for bad hires.

If internship programs are canceled in 2020, tech companies will be forced to rely even more heavily on filling positions with external candidates. By contrast, the organizations finding ways to go remote and continue hiring interns will maintain a strong recruitment funnel that establishes a talent pool for full-time hires later in 2020 and beyond.

Dealing with the unexpected situation that COVID-19 presents you with is difficult. But these difficult times will pass, and you’ll need efficient ways to make good hiring decisions once operations return to normalcy. Keeping tech internship programs going can help make that happen.

Solving Remote Hiring Challenges for Internship Programs

One barrier to maintaining summer internship programs in 2020 is that many companies hadn’t yet finalized their hiring. Without a way to properly interview internship candidates, there’s no way to create a class of quality students and new graduates that will make your program worthwhile.

This is why it’s more important than ever to adapt to remote hiring trends and give your hiring managers the tools they need to make evidence-based decisions.

Our Codility platform was built to solve these specific challenges. Our suite of recruitment tools enables you to:

  • Distribute code tests remotely that help you screen internship candidates based on their technical skills.
  • Host interview sessions in a live coding environment so your hiring managers can get a better feel for how an internship candidate solves problems and collaborates with others.
  • Use online coding competitions to attract top talent at the student and new graduate level and build your brand as an attractive employer.

There’s still plenty of opportunity to create win-win scenarios for your company and students/new graduates. As COVID-19 limits spending, internship programs help you fill out your workforce with more affordable talent. And as other tech companies cancel or suspend summer internship programs, your brand will stand out as a trustworthy source of experience.

While you may never have sourced, interviewed, and hired interns remotely in the past, doing so now doesn’t have to be a daunting task. Check out our Guide to Remote-First Hiring to learn more about getting started quickly.

Roy Solomon is Chief Revenue Officer at Codility, and an expert in the future of work. Roy leads Codility’s customer-facing teams and advises TA and Engineering leaders from around the world build their technical hiring and retention plans.

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