Apr 8, 2020 - Technology

Big Tech's summer internships go digital

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The major tech companies are scrambling to craft digital options for this year's summer intern class, as businesses remain shuttered due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Why it matters: Internships serve as key learning opportunities for students, but are also critical for the recruiting and diversity efforts of the Big Tech companies who compete fiercely for college talent.

Driving the news: These companies said they’re moving their programs online:

  • Google, which told Axios it will pay its interns the full rate.
  • Twitter, which told Axios its intern class may shrink this year.
  • IBM.
  • Microsoft, which said in a blog post this week that it will have its biggest ever intern class — more than 4,000.
  • Lyft, which will have the same number of interns as originally planned, but limit them to just two start dates to provide students with more of a common experience.
  • Salesforce, which also plans a similar size intern class as intended.

These companies are still hoping have at least some interns on-site for at least part of the summer:

  • Apple, which told Axios it plans to hire more than 1,000 people for a mix of online and in-person internships and pledged in a statement to "extend to our interns the same precautions and care that we're extending to all our other personnel as a part of the ongoing COVID-19 response."
  • Amazon, which told Axios it expects its biggest-ever class of interns globally, though it said the vast majority of internships will be virtual.
  • Intel, which does plan to have its interns work remotely but hopes to move them on-site should the situation and health authority guidelines make that possible.
  • Uber, which has made plans for online on-boarding and will keep the program online if their offices remain closed, but will aim to have its interns work in the office if that is possible.
  • Doordash, which told Axios that, for now, it "plans to stay the course" with its summer internship program, but is exploring options for conducting the program remotely and will "continue to re-evaluate as the situation progresses."

And Facebook’s plans are still up in the air.

  • "These are unprecedented times as you can imagine. We are considering all of our options for the summer internship program as we continue to put the health and safety of our employees and interns first," a Facebook spokesperson told Axios.

The big picture: All of the companies that commented on pay said they are planning to pay their virtual interns the same rate they would have received for in-person work.

  • A key question is how meaningful the online experience proves to be, both as a learning experience and a recruiting tool. Employers understand they need to try to find effective remote substitutes for in-person networking and social events, in addition to finding work tasks that can be done fully online.

Between the lines: Despite sincere efforts to go digital, some tech folks privately acknowledged that a virtual internship is unlikely to have the same meaning and impact for participants as an in-person experience.

Go deeper: Tech companies partner with public sector to take on coronavirus

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