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The Overshadowed Impact of COVID on Student Internships

Jeremiah Tang
Jeremiah Tang 24 April 2020

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Nobody Escapes the Wrath of a Global Pandemic

The effects of a Global Pandemic are all encompassing and recognize no race, gender, age or lifestyle. While the priority remains ensuring the basic safety and health of our people because nothing is more critical than that; like it or not; life goes on for many people around the world. The impact of COVID is still fully felt as it trickles down into the crevices of society.

COVID & Unemployment

In a world where unemployment is becoming increasingly rife as societies go into Isolation and Circuit Breakers, the same goes for many companies in Singapore as they start cutting jobs and employees find themselves in despair. Losing a job can mean an absence of household income and the ability to be financially sustainable. There exists no intention to downplay the severity of unemployment but with that at stake, it is easy to overlook students that find themselves caught in the middle with access to the basic necessities of survival and yet without an internship experience that could mean a career at stake.

What about our Next Generation of Talent?

It's important not to neglect our young undergraduate adults, individuals in the midst of learning their trade, aspiring to make an impact in the world. For many students across the world and in Singapore, securing a good job after graduation relies heavily on the internship experiences that they collect throughout their undergraduate education. What that means is a summer(May to August) that is usually spent at a company in their industry of interest so that they can get on-the-job learning, acquire practical skills and mentorship.

The question now becomes, what is the impact of COVID on the ability of these students to secure their internships? A recent Straits Times article had covered personal accounts of students dealing with this while a Channel News Asia report mentioned only about half of NTU business school students being able to secure internships before summer begins. To take it a step further and dig deeper, a survey was conducted among Singaporean University and Polytechnic undergraduates and here are the results:

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59% of students are unable to find an internship experience, let that sink in for awhile. And mind you, almost 500 responses was collected in the short 3 hours that this survey was live. I can only imagine the actual percentages.

"The jury is definitely out on this one, students are not getting their internships"


Are Internships really that Important?

In the grand scheme of things; relative to rising unemployment rates and public health & safety; the inability of students to secure internships might seem minuscule but there are repercussions and opportunities that we should not neglect.

The Repercussion: No internships = BAD

We all know that internships give us the practical experience and soft skills to transition smoothly into working life but more practically speaking, a study by NACE(Center for Career Development and Talent Acquisition) showed that 53% of the graduates reported securing their positions within the first year after graduation from former internships. There is a reason why Universities and Polytechnics have integrated internships and/or work attachments into their curriculum and it would be foolish to ignore that. While it is definitely foolish to claim causation between getting internships and finding jobs after graduation, it definitely plays a part and beyond that, internships are also about preparing a highly skilled future workforce.

The Opportunity: Empowering our Youth

The silver lining lies in transforming Crisis into Opportunity by matching employers to affordable remote working talent in the form of students. The truth is, employers laying their workers off is often both a financial and ability consideration. Companies cannot afford their full time, mid career salaries and sometimes, retaining them requires the ability to work digitally with which some employees have not been trained to do so. Don't get me wrong, matching students to employers is not the Be All, End All solution because there is still value in retraining laid off employees to better equip them with digital skills. However, these issues are being actively tackled by the Government and if there is an option to help companies digitize quick while giving digitally savvy students their much needed hands on experience, anything is better than nothing.

If you're wondering whether businesses are still keen on hiring interns in this period, so were we. Apart from MNCs, we decided to look into smaller and more agile companies like SMEs or Startups that tend to be more adaptive because of their size of operation. We ran a quick telegram poll among Startups and SMEs to get a glimpse of their thoughts and here they are :

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The takeaway here is simple, there still is a demand for remote projects. This represents a need for talent that could come in the form of students simply because they are a digital generation that are well equipped to take on digital projects remotely but more than anything, they are also; well, affordable and that might be the answer for certain companies. The question now is, how can we match them both?


Here's how WE help: #GETHIREDSG

Here at MarColl, our focus is on building a Digital Marketing community but in the light of the current situation, our commitment to helping students secure their internships and employers accessing affordable remote talent is by building a job board that will match students to employers for remote working attachments. These are usually task based and very much focus on digital tasks like starting an e-commerce store or managing a company's social media platforms, this is the #GETHIREDSG initiative to help students, freelancers and employers alike is

We have been working hard on making this job board available to you and expect to roll out the beta version towards the end of next week (end of April).

How can YOU Help?

If you're an Employer

If you are a business owner, manager or have any say in the hiring of talent within your organization, we ask that you think about converting your internships programmes to digital apprenticeships that will still give students the opportunity to rack up experience and knowledge. If you feel that there is relevance and value in engaging a student on a remote working arrangement, please fill in the form here.

If you're a Student

If you are one of the 59% who want to but have yet to secure an internship and are starting to feel anxious, fill in the form here so that we can contact you as soon as we are able to find an opportunity that you might be interested in for summer.

If you're a Government Agency

If you work anywhere within the government that deals with the workforce such as WSG or e2i(Employment and Employability Institute), we ask you to raise this matter to the relevant superior or board. Let us work together to help both employers and students deal with the situation at hand. Feel free to drop myself an email here to start a conversation or find out more.

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Jeremiah Tang
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Jeremiah Tang

An Entrepreneur at heart, Digital Marketer in soul. Passionate about developing Digital Marketing strategies for brand success.

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