Summer in the City? Internships in the age of hybrid work


The Covid pandemic has caused the shift to remote working, which has made it difficult for interns to connect with their employers and for companies to assess the talent of potential interns. Despite job cuts and an economic downturn, companies have not put the brakes on internship schemes and are continuing to offer them. In 2022, the number of summer internships and placements bounced back beyond pre-pandemic levels, according to the Institute of Student Employers. For this summer, companies said they hired as many interns or more than last year. 

Professional services companies such as PwC and KPMG, as well as big banks like HSBC, are offering hundreds of internship places. Despite the pandemic, internships are still in high demand, with an acceptance rate of 1 in 100 or less for the most coveted schemes. To ensure interns fit in and thrive, companies have adjusted to hybrid working, with interns often coming into the office four days a week, more than other employees. Socializing with colleagues has become more difficult due to the shift to remote working, leaving interns feeling isolated, so employers are now taking steps to address these concerns in order to attract and retain staff. 

Linklaters and HSBC have introduced "training buddy" systems to pair interns with mentors, and Allen & Overy has developed guidance for supervisors to support trainees in hybrid working. Companies are also bringing structure to social activities and taking interns to meet clients earlier than usual to involve them in "high stakes situations" and make roles more worthwhile. This year's intern cohort is facing unique challenges due to the pandemic, such as confidence and communication difficulties, which companies are addressing through coaching programs. 

Despite these issues, the hybrid workplace also presents opportunities, such as virtual internships that improve diversity and increased interactions with senior leaders and colleagues overseas. For some, internships remain a way to assess what prospective workplaces offer, but if companies fall short, they face the risk of losing talented staff. 


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