Rethinking Learning by Doing in a Time of Being Apart

Courtney Savoia
June 16, 2020

The COVID-19 crisis has turned our nation’s workforce on its head and forced many industries to make abrupt changes to how they conduct business.

From a career and technical education perspective, this has meant reimagining quality work-based learning and internship opportunities. Much is lost when the hands-on experience is removed, but there are still activities that can be translated to the virtual environment.

NAF recently joined industry experts from KPMG; Zillow Group; Biogen; and Fox Corp. on a webinar hosted by conference series and media outlet, From Day One. This important panel explored the current remote climate and how businesses are pivoting to ensure quality experiences for students in this new digital space. Seth Green, founding director of the Baumhart Center for Social Enterprise and Responsibility at Chicago Loyola University, served as the moderator. Below are key strategies; lessons learned; and insights from the panel.

On Ensuring Quality in Internship Experiences:

Seth Green, Moderator: “The future leaders of our country will be participating in internships and the ability to move virtually in business and help build out our nation’s talent pipeline will be crucial.”

Brooke Rice, NAF: “This year our internships will be held virtually and we’re thinking through being intentional about the goals of our program and ensuring that these experiences are meaningful in a digital environment.”

Amanda Beaver, KPMG: “We’re committed to a focus on life-long learning and collaborate with nonprofits, such as NAF, to nurture talent early on and provide access to transformational learning opportunities. We’re focused on innovation and design thinking and through NAF Future Ready Labs, students learn to approach issues through many different angles and ask the key questions.”

Mercheley Beuns, Fox Corp.: “A priority for our program is making the internships interactive and fun, while also ensuring a rich and robust experience to keep both our interns and business managers accountable.”

On the Challenges of Going Virtual:

Scott Moore, Zillow Group: “The challenge with virtual internships isn’t so much about the projects themselves, but the support an intern will need during the course of their experience. We need more frequent check-ins than we did in the past to ensure interns are receiving feedback. We downsized to smaller groups, almost to a 1:1 basis and added another mentor into the scenario. We wanted to provide an additional level of support.”

Mercheley Beuns, Fox Corp.: “We want the projects to reflect the real-time challenges we are facing during this time of COVID- 19. Our interns will be able to assist with the research and we want the project to be really robust and plug into the world we are currently experiencing.”

Brooke Rice, NAF: “Flexibility is the key in this current environment. It’s important to have a lot of open dialogue around needs and supports and ensuring students have the equipment and resources required for their job. Being really flexible and intentional in navigating this new normal is really important for this moment we are in.”

On Diversity & Inclusion:

Amanda Beaver, KPMG: “Students need to see their story reflected in the workplace and through our work together, we are committed to creating an inclusive and diverse future workforce. It’s important to have a compassionate program and hear specifically from students to understand their experiences. Interns need to be engaged in these conversations and have a place at the table.”

Tom Kleber, Biogen: “We also considered how virtual internships will impact focus in the home environments and need to be thoughtful about how we are supporting interns, based on their situation. My advice is to think about how you are supporting a diverse population, now that it is outside the office.”

Mercheley Beuns, Fox Corp.: “It is our goal to inject diversity into the talent pipeline. We work closely with our head of Diversity and Inclusion and make sure it’s the fabric of our intern program to look like the rest of the world. Fox has a network of college ambassadors to recruit for future internships and have partnered with universities to hold virtual info sessions for students.”

On New Skills Interns Will Develop This Year:

Tom Kleber, Biogen: “Students will have to develop resilience and adaptability this summer and these skills will end up benefitting them in the long term.”

Scott Moore, Zillow Group: “Another aspect of the internship experience is really thinking about creating career awareness. We try to provide opportunities for young people to really think about that and experience different facets of work.”

America’s high schools and industry professionals must work together now to continue to support students in their college and career preparation. While there is no replacement for in-person experiences, there is a lot we can do remotely to uplift our students and ensure they feel confident in adapting to trying times. Let’s all work harmoniously to create the world we want to see going forward.

Will you join us in advocating for our young people?

Watch the the full webinar replay here.

View Bio

Courtney Savoia is the Assistant Director of Communications at NAF. She’s passionate about sharing the stories of our network and elevating their voices. Courtney writes about a variety of NAF and partner experiences, as well as lessons learned, and also conducts student, partner, and educator interviews about their journeys, for our audiences to take inspiration from.