University-facilitated remote internships can lead to observable skill improvements in communication, critical thinking, leadership, and more, according to new research.
The report Unlocking Career Readiness: The Impact of Remote Internships on Student Skill Development for Employability, by Virtual Internships, draws on data gathered through 729 remote intern-supervisor pairs during remote internship programs.
The research is a response to employers’ concerns about significant gaps in graduate career-readiness skills.
Such gaps were outlined in the National Association of Colleges and Employers Job Outlook Report 2023, which found that while nearly all employers considered communication and critical thinking vital, only 47% and 56%, respectively, considered recent graduates to be proficient.
Meanwhile, the research from Virtual Internships found that the most notable improvements were in critical thinking and communication skills competencies, the latter surging by 24% post-internship.
“It really shows something that we’ve been talking about and employers have been saying very readily for the past 20 years – that learners aren’t ready for the real world,” Jillian Low, chief strategy officer at Virtual Internships, told The PIE News.
“But an internship really can impact a supervisor’s opinion on the learners skills and those soft skills developed throughout.”
In fact, interns and supervisors noticed a significant improvement across all eight soft skills deemed important by employers and lacking in graduates, including global fluency, technology and professionalism.
Low spoke to The PIE about the increasing attraction of remote internships for students in 2023 and beyond.
“Learners today, more than ever, are very aware of the need for employability in their degree, and they are seeking it out in droves. It definitely has crept up over the last 20 years, and I would say international students led that.”
As demand for hybrid work and learning rises, Low said remote internships help learners gain the ability to convey complex messages asynchronously, to adapt workplace tone and communication culture.
“Learners today, more than ever, are very aware of the need for employability in their degree”
“It takes adaptability and the application of your previous communication skills to a next level,” she added.
“We often think behind a computer you’re left alone to your own devices, but remote work can be very, very engaging and it can be very communicative,” said Low.
“It’s just a different way and you really need to exercise those communication muscles in a remote setting to come out the other end successfully.”
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