Long an important outreach at Haskell, internships took a giant step forward in Spring 2019 when, as part of its Workforce Development Strategy, the company formalized its University Relations efforts.
Under Director Mike Huskey, Haskell set to work creating a more curated and structured approach to curricula in the Summer Internship Program (SIP) with the goal of better exposing interns to the culture and meaningful work that define it. Added to the existing immersive practical experience were centralized coordination, regularly scheduled all-intern workshops and a group project on which the interns reported to Haskell’s Executive Leadership Team (ELT).
The program was further fine-tuned for 2020 based on participant feedback, and programming was enhanced to offer returning interns new experiences. A total of 50 applicants were selected and signed offer letters in December 2019, 14 of whom were returning for their second summer and two of whom were returning for their third. The stage was set.
But just as the University Relations team was making its final preparations, the coronavirus pandemic brought the world – and, with it, Haskell’s Summer Internship Program – to a halt.
“We were concerned if we were even going to have an internship program this summer, but we never stopped planning,” said Huskey. “We were always looking through positive lenses.”
On April 3, 18 days after Haskell mandated that all office employees to begin teleworking, the Summer Internship Program got the green light. And while a wide range of major companies cancelled programs or rescinded internship offers, according to the New York Times, Haskell honored all commitments and, in fact, signed an additional eight interns.
Then it was time to adapt. The SIP would proceed with interns working on virtual platforms or teleworking. All interns would participate in the regularly scheduled meetings via Microsoft Teams and collaborate virtually on group projects.
Huskey and Deidre Brearley, University Relations Coordinator, conferred with each internship sponsor and learned that some would be unable to provide a full-time immersive professional experience because of pandemic-related project delays and jobsite closures.
In response, the University Relations team leveraged Haskell’s widely respected Learning and Development Program, currently ranked 11th on the Training Magazine’s “Training’s Top 125,” to create a Virtual Summer Internship Program (V-SIP) as a supplement to the traditional program. Brearley organized the virtual curriculum by structuring weekly themes with online material and daily meetings discussing Haskell values, projects, team members, and work habits.
Adjustments are continual, and participation in the daily program averages about 12-15 interns, depending on each intern’s current workload.
With flexible programming and virtual platforms for interns to connect, the University Relations team is braced for any situation. For example, a month into the program, the team announced that the planned Intern Summit, which was intended to convene all 58 interns from all locations at Haskell’s Jacksonville, Florida, headquarters, would instead be held virtually so as to eliminate travel and preserve the safety of all participants.
“COVID-19 has made it harder to make the personal connection,” Huskey said, “But the personal nature and personal touch that everybody puts into the program, our whole team recognizes, is how to grow this organization.”
About the writer: Ashton Erickson is a Haskell 2020 summer intern working in the Corporate Marketing department. She is a sophomore at the University of Florida majoring in Marketing and Economics.