COVID-19 changes the work landscape


Photo by Brian Winters.

Many students pursue internships in their junior or senior year to help gain valuable experience in the workfield.  However, many of these opportunities have been put on pause this year due to COVID-19. 

Many companies have had to cancel their internship opportunities for college students due to safety and economic concerns. Bailey Bynum, a sophomore accounting and finance double major, said this was why her tax internship with the Carr, Riggs & Ingram accounting firm in Jackson was canceled. 

“It was paid, and I’m devastated that it’s not going to happen. When they contacted me regarding my internship status, they mentioned it had to be postponed since the regular employee’s salaries would have been cut by 20-30%, which wouldn’t have helped anyone in these economic times,” Bynum said.

Senior therapeutic recreation major Elizabeth Winder, however, was still able to keep her internship at the Wood Activity and Therapeutic Center in Clinton. For Winder, working with elderly groups changed her work routine. 

“At first, I did worry. especially since the population that we serve is older adults, but we have taken precautions to be clean and safe. Even though our participants cannot physically come to the center, we are taking various measures to still allow them the chance to stay active. Overall, we’re looked at as a required field that is assisting people of all ages during these troubling times,” Winder said.

Career Services has recently shared link portals to access applications for virtual internships. While this isn’t the preferred experience many students were looking towards, Jon Pluskota, Ph.D, an assistant professor in the media entertainment arts department, said this might be the new future for some work experiences.

“The idea that distance learning and work being here for the long run might become more of a reality. The question is if we were behind the curve before this occurred. It just required more thought, innovation, ingenuity using technology. I think that as far as careers, education and internships, we are going to see a move towards online in some capacity,”  Pluskota said.

Pluskota said a big part of making online or remote internships work is increasing communication.

“If you’re going to have a micro-internship, you’re going to have to know that the support is there and the person is a good mentor,” Pluskota said. “It can turn into a disaster if you’re not in constant communication and just have people throwing stuff at you. If the workforce is going to be more remote in the future, as long as there is connection everything will go fine. It forces us all to learn more on our own.”