Lehigh Valley Summit Highlights How to Start, Run Virtual Internship Programs

By Colin McEvoy on September 10, 2020

The Lehigh Valley Internship Summit included speakers (clockwise from top-left) Alisa Lopano of Discover Lehigh Valley, Karianne Gelinas of LVEDC, and Stacy Halliday of Air Products.

Strong internship programs have always been important, but with the coronavirus pandemic forcing many companies to scale back resources and implement telecommuting, they have become that much more important, and that much more challenging to implement.

The first of two sessions from the second annual Lehigh Valley Internship Summit was held virtually on Sept. 10, hosted by the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC) in partnership with local colleges and universities.

“I am sure that you will take away new ideas and beneficial tips from our speakers on how to create a remote internship program, engage with interns when you can’t work face-to-face, and make the experience a success for both your business and the interns who work with you,” said Karianne Gelinas, LVEDC Vice President of Strategic Initiatives and Research.

Organized through the LVEDC Education & Talent Supply Council, this year’s summit focuses how to start remote internships, recruit interns, create a virtual experience, and operate internships in today’s unusual circumstances and into the post-pandemic economy.

The second and final session of the Lehigh Valley Internship Summit will be held on Sept. 17 at 10 a.m. Visit here to register or for more information.

Speakers from the first session included Stacy Halliday, HR Recruiting Specialist and Program Manager, University Relations and College Recruiting with Air Products, and Alisa Lopano, Creative Services Manager at Discover Lehigh Valley.

A full video of the summit session can be viewed below or on the LVEDC YouTube channel:

Halliday discussed Air Products’ “Virtual Summer,” its 11-week internship program for 67 interns who worked both locally and at the company’s plants around the world, but participating remotely due to the pandemic.

“We played a big part in making sure they were connecting, collaborating, and engaged in the corporation,” she said. “… And we still wanted them to have fun. Even though they may have been sitting in a room with a laptop, we wanted to make sure they were having fun and engaged with the program.”

The internship program included guest speakers, more than two dozen summer activities, mini-projects and coffee chats, and frequent check-ins. Air Products sought to create a virtual experience for the interns, as well as to provide career development opportunities.

Lopano said Discover Lehigh Valley’s internship program was of a much smaller scale, with only one intern this summer, but was no less important to the company. Supported by hotel tax revenue, which was decimated as a result of the pandemic, Discover Lehigh Valley was forced to drastically scale back, increasing the need for support from its internship program.

“We needed the help,” Lopano said. “So we needed to figure out how to go from an in-person internship to a virtual internship.”

They did so by developing a structure that included daily morning check-ins, independent time for completing tasks, screen-sharing sessions, and a virtual infrastructure to assign projects. Lopano said strong emphasis was also placed on connecting the intern with contacts and professional networks.

“Having a successful internship this summer makes me feel more confident about bringing on more virtual internships if needed, because I know we can do it now,” she said. “I think we’ve developed the right rhythm, and overall it was a great experience.”

Speakers for the Sept. 17 session will include Lisa Brogan, Program Manager, University Recruiting with Olympus Corporation of the Americas, and Cory Stevens, Volunteer and Internship Programs Manager with ArtsQuest. Attracting top interns with be the primary topic.

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