They say “timing is everything.” Our timing was … well … memorable. At Skillsoft Marketing, we began our first internship program just over a year ago at the start of the pandemic. In fact, our very first intern joined the day we shuttered the office, picking up her laptop and seeing her boss in person for the first — and only — time.
We had four interns in that inaugural class, all of whom completed their programs virtually and two of whom joined Skillsoft full-time: Gianna Wilson and Amanda Papavasiliou. Now, as we say farewell to our second class, we should take some time to acknowledge the tremendous value of this program — both for Skillsoft and for the interns themselves.
We’ve been able to build a multi-faceted, global program, one in which our interns have been involved in everything from corporate communications to digital marketing, from marketing analytics to conversational AI. And they’ve left us the better for their contributions. Our interns have come from schools across the country and around the globe. And they have taken with them so many new skills — both job-specific and those "power skills" that are so important to be successful in the workplace: collaboration, communication, agility.
And we know that internships deliver value to both employers and the interns who take part. Why? According to SHRM, these programs "offer a way to bring in fresh perspectives, create a pipeline for new hires, and provide mentorship opportunities for existing employees." Further, according to the 2020 Internship and Co-op Survey Report by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, the one-year retention rate for intern hires with internal experience is 68.7 percent and 55 percent for those with external internship experience, compared to 40.3 percent for hires with no experience.
Why has our internship program been so successful, especially in a COVID world? Here is what I would offer:
1. We did things differently. Most internships are office-based programs that allow members to meet people from across the business, collaborate on assignments in-person, and learn by watching and doing. As an entirely remote program, we had to find ways to introduce our interns to new people and concepts. We held a series of “Lunch 'n Learns” with internal and external experts, many of whom sat outside of Marketing.
2. We were flexible. Rather than create a rigid program with a defined start and end date or set of weekly hours, we adapted our program to address the various schedules and time zones of the class and built plans that had defined outcomes. And, we were highly focused on not only meeting our objectives, but also fulfilling theirs.
3. We met them where they were. Truly. We took this unique opportunity to hire interns from across the United States and around the world. New Jersey. Puerto Rico. Georgia. North Carolina, the city of Ranchi in Jharkhand, India. In doing so, we were able to hire a diverse group of individuals, from rising juniors to MBA students, each of whom brought new perspectives and skills to their role.
How did Skillsoft benefit? In so many ways!
Each intern has been a part of a capstone project that has resulted in value for the company, but more importantly, value for our customers. Kerri Thibodeau has been integral in launching The Learning Edge, our customer community. Beth, a member of the OG, supported The Edge, our podcast for learners and leaders alike.
What did our interns learn?
I think Andrea Mendez articulates it far better than I could in this piece she wrote as a farewell to the company. I couldn't be prouder of her accomplishments or those of our other interns.
As we begin to think about our third class (!), we'll look to expand even further by running pilots in our Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) and Asia Pacific (APAC) regions. We'll strive to build a year-long program rather than summer solely, and we'll identify additional universities with which we can partner.