Covid 19: B-schools defer summer internships as cos unable to on-board

MUMBAI: Leading business schools including the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) are considering deferring student internships, which were due to start in April, to as late as October-November amid the lockdown forced in several parts of the country by the spread of Covid-19.

B-school managements are discussing the options available with host companies, said officials and human resource heads of companies. A delay in internships may have an adverse impact on student placements, they said, since most firms offer students full-time positions based on the internships (pre-placement offers or PPOs).

Although some of the leading IIMs, such as those in Ahmedabad and Kozhikode, have requested the companies to be more flexible, including in offering virtual projects, internships are unlikely to start next month as many companies are in a firefighting mode, said people aware of the matter.

“We have written to the directors of the institutes to work out an alternate plan. One of the suggestions we have made is to conduct the internships in October,” said Prince Augustin, executive vice president, group human capital and leadership development at Mahindra & Mahindra.

MBA students are required to complete an eight-week industry internship in summer, when students go to companies and work on projects. The summer internship process is crucial because many firms hire strictly through the PPO route. They take in interns and after going through their work for the two months, make them a pre-placement offer. Many of the companies then do not hire from campuses during final placements.

A delay in student internships will also force the institutes to rework their class schedules.

“We are working out to see how we adjust our calendar. We have asked companies to offer some flexibility,” said Debashis Chatterjee, director, IIM Kozhikode. “We are considering if eight weeks of internship can be adjusted to seven weeks or if we can operate on different modes, such as if some projects can be done digitally.”

Human resource heads said companies are busy figuring out how to maintain day to day functioning and that with majority of the staff working from home, having summer interns to work on projects will not be possible till some stability is reached.

IIM Ahmedabad said that while some recruiters have adapted their internship model to a virtual (remote working) mode, other firms have written to the institute regarding a delayed internship start date.

“To such firms (that want to delay), our strong recommendation is to not to wait for things to get normal before starting the internship. All firms are requested to start the internship as planned in the first week of April in a virtual mode,” Amit Karna, chairperson of the placement committee at IIMA, wrote in a recent letter to recruiters.

The institute also requested potential recruiters to treat student interns on a par with employees in terms of policies and to allow them to work from home and take their consent for work-related travel.

However, most companies said it would not be possible to on-board interns anytime soon. “Even if I onboard a student intern, they will have absolutely no idea of what they have to do…remote on-boarding is absolutely impossible to do with interns,” said SV Nathan, chief talent officer, Deloitte India.

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