Cal Poly Pomona’s administration imposed new internship regulations for the fall and spring semesters amid health and safety concerns regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. Following the campus shift to virtual instruction, in-person internships will no longer be accepted for academic credit through Spring 2021.
Under this new directive, students who were accepted to in-person internships with the goal of receiving class credit are now forced to change plans and seek virtual alternatives.
Erik Rolland, dean of the College of Business Administration acknowledged the stress this policy can cause students navigating a continuously shrinking internship and the job market.
“This is very difficult for us,” Rolland said. “There’s a liability issue. There has to be understanding from all sides.”
He added that the college of business has partnerships with companies that grant scholarships and mentor students virtually. Along with these partnerships, faculty are available to counsel students through the internship process. Rolland added, “Why risk it? Physical presence is not very needed.”
Aside from meeting graduation requirements, internships are an important stepping stone for students to gain experience in their field of interest or possibly obtain a full-time position. A 2019 survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers found that 56.1% of interns were converted into full-time hires.
However, the pandemic has severely diminished the internship market. According to Glassdoor, a
search engine for jobs and internships, internship openings in May 2020 decreased by 49% compared to May 2019.
Nakana Whaley, a fourth-year apparel merchandising and management student, planned to intern with a designer during the summer to be on track to graduate, but because of the new requirement, there were no opportunities. She dropped the summer course that would allow her to take an internship and receive credit for it.
“I was really hurt by internship regulations because I assumed I wasn’t going to be able to do an
internship the way that I had originally intended,” Whaley said.
Four weeks later, she received an email from Muditha Senanayake, interim chair of the apparel
merchandising department, with an internship opportunity; she accepted.
“I didn’t know that it would be possible to do a fully online internship, until I actually did it
myself. I was pleasantly surprised with everything,” Whaley said.
Whaley interned with designer Ximena Valero for the summer in a capacity that mostly did not require in-person participation. “I am more of an assistant, making graphics on Adobe creation, PowerPoint presentations,” Whaley said.
After her internship, she hopes to continue working with designer Valero or another brand and secure a salary. For Whaley, the ultimate goal is to “make money.”
Associate Dean of the College of Agriculture Lisa Kessler encourages students in this remote environment to give themselves the opportunity to learn a new skill through virtual internships.
“We have a mentoring program set up with Target. There’s virtual mentoring where students connect with different people who are in their field, and they get advice and that’s a really nice opportunity too,” she said.
Faculty are able to find internships through advisory boards, professional organizations, and companies that reach out to them directly. Their connections have facilitated the search for face-to-face internships, as well as virtual internships.
Kessler added, “Cal Poly Pomona students have such a great reputation, that often companies will
come to us because they know that they are ready to start working right away.”
For more information regarding internship regulations: https://www.cpp.edu/cba/management-and-human resources/curriculum/Semester%20Internships.shtml
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