Beyond the stress of classes moving online mid-semester, students moving off-campus in many cases, and the inability to use their in-person LER support network, many LER students also were forced to deal with the stress of failed job searches and cancelled internships due to COVID-19.
The National Association of Colleges and Employers reports that nationwide, approximately 20% of employers have been forced to revoke summer internship offers due to the virus. Sixteen percent of domestic LER students who were already placed in internships had their offers revoked. Six domestic students were still searching for internships at the time that the stay-at-home orders were issued, and their searches were effectively ended.
In addition to the problems created for our domestic pool, many of our international students return home to recruit for internships after they finish the spring semester. The recruiting season in Asia lags behind that in the US, and they are able to recruit and perform their internships after they return home. Many of those students were either stuck in the US with no ability to secure a flight home, or were afraid if they went home they would be unable to return for fall classes, if they are held on campus.
LER needed to quickly create an innovative way to help this sudden demand for students to get valuable exposure to real-world issues, in a vacuum of available paid on-site positions. We piloted two student/employer projects during the spring semester, not realizing how important that experience would be for responding to this acute need. After making a call to our recruiting partners and alumni, we were able to secure seven companies to provide eight projects on subjects ranging from personality assessments, to cost of turnover and global alignment of HR systems.
Eight faculty members stepped in to guide and grade each project. Heartfelt thanks to Professors Cardador, Drasgow, Forsythe, Jung, Kramer, Lamare, LeRoy, and Restubog for supervising these projects. The projects are structured as an independent study, removing the company from the liabilities associated with unpaid internships. The students work as a team and create an agreed-upon deliverable within the framework on the problem statement provided by the sponsoring organization. At the end, they will receive a grade for their work, and have real-world experience to highlight on their resume in lieu of the typical internship.
Organizations that have generously offered their time, guidance and data to this initiative are highlighted through logos on this page. Thanks are in order for Apache Industrial, Catalyst, Chamberlain Group, Cherry Tree Analytics, Core Mark, DuPont, and Heartland Dental. We could not have accomplished this last-minute (and very involved) request without the help and buy-in of our valued recruiting partners and amazing alumni.
We received more projects than we could use at this time, so we hope to continue this program on a more limited basis throughout the coming school year. To learn more about projects for future semesters, visit https://ler.illinois.edu/employers/partnership-opportunities/student-projects/ or contact Nell Madigan.