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Virtual Internships, Micro-Internships Create Crosswalks from Classroom to Career Remotely

Published Jun 02, 2020 by Susan Moore

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way businesses operate including the type of work that can be done, the methods by which it can be done and, in many cases, the locations of where it can be done.

Many businesses and workers have adapted to conducting business remotely. The same thinking can apply to internships; Programs that allow students and young adults to conduct meaningful work and explore careers can be completed from a distance, too.

Katherine Taylor, executive director of Genesys Works Houston, joined Parker Dewey LLC founder and CEO Jeffrey Moss and Greater Houston Partnership Senior Vice President of Regional Workforce Development Peter Beard in an UpSkill Works Forum to advocate for holding internships in a virtual space. 

Genesys Works Houston is an organization that provides pathways to career success for high school students in underserved communities. Its paid internships focus on preparing students for the professional workplace along with technical skills that are needed.

Parker Dewey connects college students and recent graduates with employers to work on short-term, paid professional assignments that range between five to 40 hours in length, called micro-internships.  Micro-internships do not replace more traditional and longer 10-week internships or post-secondary education, but rather, complement them. Almost all of the micro-internships Parker Dewey has fostered since its founding have been remote. 

The pair extolled the virtues of holding internship or micro-internship programs with benefits for students, employers and educational systems:

  • Internships help students develop professional skills that prepare them for future work.
  • Business professionals can help high school students understanding connections between roles, jobs and industries, connections which in turn can inform smart decisions about education and careers.
  • Short-term projects help students explore careers by “dipping their toe” into an industry, company or career area to gauge whether it is a good fit for them.
  • Micro-internships can be particularly important for first-generation college students or students with majors that don’t sound like job titles but with communication, adaptability and analytical reasoning that match with key aspects of job duties.
  • Engaging with these students on short-term projects can signal to employers that talent can come from varied educational backgrounds or majors. 
  • Investing in local high school students can grow a diverse local talent pool. 
  • Connecting colleges with employers to provide students with opportunities that lead to well-aligned jobs are wins for all: Students can gain experiences that lead to employment; colleges and universities want graduates to succeed in meaningful careers; employers can engage with students as job prospects but also build or strengthen recruiting ties with colleges and universities.

Conducting internships or short-term projects remotely brings the added benefit of removing complications like security access for students, location barriers and transportation issues, Moss said.

Moss saw a 50 percent increase in the number of micro-internships being offered from April to May. They have taken off for companies that are trying to figure out how to respond to a remote environment; they are also helping companies recruit in the absence of college visits. 

Moss also shared that Parker Dewey makes its micro internship projects available educators who can use real-life problems and projects to enhance their curricula. For example, if an educator wants to teach marketing in the classroom, Parker-Dewey can provide the marketing micro internships that are the most common ones and in demand by companies. It also provides educators with the opportunity to bring employers to the table to guest lecture or be involved in the classroom

Unlike Parker Dewey, the internships Genesys Works Houston, supports are not normally remote. Typically, students engage in an intensive eight-week professional skills training program during the summer between their junior and senior years of high school and then hold a year-long internship while completing their senior year.

The organization and its employer partners have pivoted from an in-person model to a remote model and currently 121 students are completing their internships remotely.  

To make this pivot, participating students had to learn new technology and digital platforms in order to continue their programs. Employers had to make sure students could access projects remotely. Genesys Works found partners among other organizations to provide students with equipment to allow for remote access.


Connect with Genesys Works Houston. Learn more about Parker Dewey and see its Remote Internships 101 guide to creating and managing a remote internship program.


The UpSkill Works Forum Series is a series of interviews with business and community leaders, policy makers, and leading thinkers on the key workforce issues our region confronts. View a recording of this and previous Forum discussions on YouTube

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