Real-World Industry Experience Through a Virtual Internship Program – Part 1
In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, our University Relations team adapted our internship program in the United States and Canada through enhanced virtual collaboration, learning and mentorship opportunities. In this two-part series, we’ll share how the program was reshaped to provide a valuable experience to the interns, even while participating remotely, and highlight what they learned over the course of the summer.
Tell me about the University Relations team and how the AECOM Internship program has been adapted around the coronavirus pandemic.
The University Relations team is comprised of a diverse team spread across the U.S. that focuses on recruiting marketing and branding, leveraging technology and new applications to enhance the efficiency and success of our programs, and creating internship and entry level programming and career development resources. We also have a team of recruiters who are experts in their various segments/industries and cover the geographic regions across North America.
When offices began to shift to a remote working environment at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, the University Relations team quickly pivoted to figure out how we can run a successful internship with the new government advise, mandates and regulations in place. We worked with executives and leadership across the business to confirm that they would still be able to sustain their commitments to their interns, and an overwhelmingly large number enthusiastically confirmed their support. We hosted virtual trainings and lunch and learns from sectors across the company, and also had several “social” activities, including a performance by a comedian, a virtual scavenger hunt, and a geographic trivia game.
What are the goals of the program?
Our virtual internship program offers participants the opportunity to:
- Learn about AECOM, our various lines of business, operating model, mission, values and our unique history
- Contribute to meaningful work assignments aligned to interns’ course of study
- Create goals and be provided a final performance review at the completion of the internship
Over the course of the program, the interns gain real-world industry experience through opportunities to network with peers and leadership and by gaining a greater understanding of AECOM’s business objectives, the services and solutions we offer our clients, and the impacts our work has on local communities.
What is the duration of the program?
The formal program ran from June 8 to August 14. There are some interns who will stay on and hopefully many interns will convert to full-time employees over the course of the next year.
What does the virtual summer internship curriculum consist of?
The program is divided into four parts:
- On the Job Experience
- We offer work assignments that align with the interns’ course of study
- We ask that the interns contribute to various projects and client requests
- Knowledge Acquisition
- Throughout the course of the internship, we’re continuously teaching the participants about AECOM, including the firm’s history, operations and clients.
- In addition, we highlight the impact of the work that we do. For example, we explain how our company’s mission, vision, and values not only impact the communities in which we work, but also influence the firm’s bottom line.
- We placed a heavy focus on ensuring we supported the unique emotional and social needs of the interns during this unprecedented pandemic. We offered a variety of helpful resources by way of the “work from home” kit, virtual social events and dedicated internal platforms to connect and build relationships with other AECOM interns.
- Performance and Evaluation
- To help our interns get the most out of the program, we worked with them to develop and submit goals to their managers at the beginning of the program.
- At the completion of the program, managers completed an evaluation for each intern to assess their performance.
How are the interns and their assigned teams staying connected?
Beyond the typical ways of working remotely – email, conference calls, message platforms, etc. – teams regularly hosted virtual social hours and lunch and learns through Microsoft Teams, we also had a dedicated internal digital employee group to drive collaboration, and each intern had a mentor to guide them throughout the internship. Interns were also encouraged to familiarize themselves with our internal resource tools found on our intranet. This allowed them to be fully embedded on their teams and at the company.
How many interns and employees/teams participated?
The University Relations team, which is a part of our Design and Consulting Services Americas and Construction Management talent acquisition teams, along with several hiring managers and over 350 interns participated in our virtual internship program in the U.S. and Canada.
Aside from conducting the program digitally, what were the main differences between the virtual and in-person internship programs?
Due to the impact of COVID-19, we designed the virtual internship program to place a heavy emphasis on the emotional and social networking part of the program. It was very important to us to prioritize supporting the unique needs of participants in this time of uncertainty. Several components of the program included a remote-working kit, virtual social hours and lunch and learns, dedicated internal digital groups, and a virtual mentor throughout the duration of the program.
To learn more about the future of the AECOM Virtual internship Program and hear directly from our interns about what they gained from the program, read the second part of this blog series.