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Job aspirants paid low stipend, miss office environment as internships go digital

Delayed joining, less stipend, connectivity issues and missing out on an office environment has affected the internship season for the COVID batch of 2020. For a select few, with internships going digital, bigger brands and C-suite bosses have become accessible.

Written by Shyna Kalra | New Delhi |
Updated: June 12, 2020 11:31:19 am
digital internship, virtual internship, work from home, how to work from home effectively, top paying work from home jobs, employment news, sarkari naukri, coronavirus latest updates Connectivity and difficulty in managing with digitally and low stipend are key concerns of students (Image: Pexel/Representational)

To cope with rescinded job offers and add value to the blank column of work experience in their resume, many students have shifted to attending internships digitally. However, first-time interns are missing out on the experience of being in a workplace physically, especially those who have on-site project related work such as real estate. Besides, the stipend too has been either cancelled or reduced by a significant amount for freshers by a majority of firms this year, claim students from across the country.

Despite the issues, students have accepted the offers to intern as they think it is better than not having one. Many also claim to have missed the opportunity due to a lack of resources in lockdown during the internship season (April to June). The UGC and AICTE have both asked schools to provide alternatives to students who have missed internships in the form of project work on campus once the institutes reopen.

None or negligible stipend

Shubhangi Dwivedi, a fresh graduate was looking for a work-from-home internship as she wanted to pursue theatre after graduating, while being financially independent. “I am from Ayodhya and my parents do not support me pursuing theatre, so I preferred a work from home set-up which could pay my bills and allow me time for my passion, after the pandemic. Not many companies were open to hiring a fresher and remote job were paying too little. I got an offer of around Rs 3000 per month, which hardly makes my ends meet. While working remotely, another issue is that employers want you to work around the clock. It is difficult to find someone who respects office timings and yet pays decently,” she told indianexpress.com.

Apoorva Rai, 20, a second-year student from Kolkata wanted to work in Delhi or Mumbai for her first-ever internship, however, her offers got pulled back days before joining due to the pandemic. “I had an offer from a big brand in Mumbai and was ready to join from February but they claimed they did not have anything substantial to offer me. I had to finally settle down for a digital internship because it is compulsory to intern for at least two months to get my degree. I feel that many do not take interns seriously, especially those in the penultimate year as they cannot be converted into employees in the near future. My current firm, even though smaller, is very patient with me but I am not getting any stipend money.”

Need for remote jobs rises, vacancies not so much

The stipends have become lower due to the high demand for digital internship against a lower supply for jobs. Since the lockdown, the internet search trend for ‘remote working’,’work from home’, digital working, etc, has seen a huge rise. As per a survey report by Indeed, while there is a rise of over 261 per cent in such jobs since February 2020 and it continues to grow further, the number of available jobs in the domain remains relatively unchanged.

While for some digital internships were inaccessible due to lack of resources for others, it extended the range of opportunities by connecting with firms who would otherwise hire locally. (Representational/Pexel)

Shveta Raina, CEO, Talerang – a platform that trains students and connects them with jobs and internships – said they had to tweak their training process a bit to help students be ready for digital jobs. “Even as the current generation is tech-savvy, we had to give them training with working digitally. In digital workspaces, there is no one to monitor you and it becomes necessary to stay motivated, have proper time management skills as well as ensure that interns are being ethically correct and are not handling multiple projects at the same time. Such training was an addition to the normal programme this year. While the stipend had decreased for some, big firms like Aditya Birla group have also extended their paid internships for students this year,” she commented.

Increased access

The digital job-readiness platform claims to have seen double the number of applications this year due to the lockdown. Digital internship, remarked Raina, is not all bad and students have also got exposure to places they were not comfortable visiting. “Earlier, students from premium institutes in metro cities would opt for digital internships. This year, even students from remote areas have got access to big firms in Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, and other major job hubs. They can now connect to C-suite employees directly and have access to a range of opportunities.”

She pointed out that among major trends this year, digital marketing has made a comeback. Further, content marketing, finance, and research related internships have also attracted interest from students.

Research-based internships

Colleges too have made several changes to their internship rules to help students make the most of whatever is available to them. Ashwani Awasthi, Managing Director, RICS School of Built Environment, Amity University said, “Our work is related to construction and real estate, thus industry or site visits are a core part of our internships which could not take place this year. Thus we decided that instead of real-time projects we will expose our students to real-time problems faced by industry and make them research the burning topics and present a solution by the end of the internship. This will make them understand the industry, thought leadership, and train them in research methodology.”

He informed that despite the initial hiccups to make the industry understand the need to train interns digitally and the solutions they will bring to the table, the project has been successful and the institute will replicate the model for coming batches too. For the current batch, field-visits, site-based projects and training for office environment will be held through guest lectures by alumni and industry experts. However, he acknowledged that the lack of connectivity and low stipend were some of the issues raised from students’ end.

Screen-time rules

For younger students in class 11 and 12 who opt for internships to increases chances of college admissions, the battle was also with screen-time as parents and teachers are not happy with exposing students too much to screens. Nitina Dua, Lead of Career Development Centre, Shiv Nadar School, Noida told indianexpress.com, “Younger children are sometimes not aware of their key areas and want to experiment with a couple of things, thus mapping their aptitude with the job profile is necessary. We also ensure that they are not made to sit on a computer screen for long, they were given a brief orientation on digital etiquettes.”

Virtual meet-ups

Top firms are not only collaborative but are also coming up with newer ways of reaching out to interns. Companies like Adobe, Google, Microsoft, Amazon have been providing internships digitally to students.

Deepti Verma, Director, HR, Amazon informed that the firm is taking office coffee breaks virtual with its innovative ways. “We are hosting virtual fireside chats with senior leadership across Amazon as well as within the functional teams, along with office hours and virtual tea and coffee breaks to stay connected with their colleagues. We have planned some fun activities to connect interns with alumni and other interns to ensure they receive a positive and well-rounded internship experience,” she said.

The tech giant claims to have received great feedback for the virtual internship programme for students and will review having different modes – hybrid, physical, and virtual – internship in the coming years.

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