Remotely Speaking: Bringing Value from a Distance

This past year has seen significant changes for students and employers regarding the internship landscape. Today, more than ever, the direction of a “hands-on” internship has changed dramatically. As many organizations adjusted and carved out a place in their companies for virtual internships, some had already embraced the digital landscape before the pandemic hit. Having organizations that understand the importance and scope of a remote academic internship can be a game-changer for both the organizations and the student interns. One such company is WJMS Radio. LLC, which is based in Savannah, GA. Founded by entrepreneur Jaymie Bowles, this internet station has a variety of programming that is focused on youth empowerment, young entrepreneurs, non-profits, and positive community relations. The station’s remote internship program has provided numerous academic internships for Columbia College Chicago students across many disciplines. With opportunities in audio production, marketing, journalism, and music programming, students have been able to learn and enhance their skill sets. Even before the pandemic, local and national radio stations, which used to be a thriving area for internship opportunities, have either “paused” internships, but sadly, in most cases, simply eliminated them. This further emphasizes the importance of sponsors such as WJMS.

So, how does a company create and maintain a successful internship program? According to Jaymie, “One of the main keys to running a successful remote program is to communicate. I make sure to have a weekly check-in with students via video chat consistently to go over projects, work, updates and to answer their questions. If you do not have a consistent meeting with remote interns, it’s hard to track what they are doing and if they are truly getting what they need out of the internship.”

One of the most appealing aspects of a remote internship is for students to have a sense of autonomy. Additionally, transportation time and cost when traveling to an internship site will now be non-existent. As Jaymie states, “A remote internship allows you to really let a student get the full experience. They won’t be getting coffee or doing mindless busy work, they are really able to do work that is impactful.”

Having projects for each student to work on is one thing, but as Jaymie points out, getting to know the intern and providing mentorship is a role that can’t be understated. “Find something that excites them or will challenge them and create a project around it. It will keep them engaged, curious, and ultimately at the end of the internship they will remember the experience for it.”

No longer restricted by the barriers of location, remote internships are a way to give students opportunities that might not have been available to students due to proximity. Though more opportunities have presented themselves over the past year due to the changing environment, Jaymie has some advice for students to not take lightly the commitment needed. “The benefit of a remote position is that you can get some truly wonderful students from all over the world which brings in awesome new ideas, thoughts, and concepts.”

On the other hand, not every company can have a successful remote program, which means there are less opportunities available. According to Jaymie, “Students I work with recognize this and are more motivated to engage and perform to make sure they don’t lose that spot.” For sponsors that are on the fence about creating remote internships, Jaymie has this advice, “Remote internships get you very connected to what the students are working on. They are in charge of their hours, but it’s your responsibility to make sure you have enough work to fill those hours and to check on it throughout the experience. “