Virtual internships
The University of Plymouth has joined with education providers in the region to run an innovative project that will provide SMEs and micro-businesses in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly with the opportunity to benefit from a funded ‘virtual internship’ with grants of up to £1,000 available to the student.The ESF Innovation in Higher Level Skills project, part-funded by the European Social Fund, is placing undergraduates in eligible businesses for a six-week internship conducted entirely online due to the restrictions imposed by COVID-19.
The programme is seeking to provide students with new skills, career confidence, and experience, while businesses will benefit from having a higher-level skilled student who can be set to work upon ‘live’ projects and tasks.
Jo Byrne, Employer Engagement and Education Specialist for the ESF Innovation in Higher Level Skills project said: 
“Internships offer businesses the ability to benefit from fresh ideas and the higher level sector specific skills that students can bring. And at a time when many organisations have had to adapt and switch to an online and home-based model of working, these virtual internships represent a new approach. Internships are also crucial for a student’s development, enabling them to put the theory they have learned at university into practice in a real-life work environment. The skills obtained from internships are invaluable for their future and can help them grow both personally and professionally.”

The programme had originally been intended to offer traditional internships, but the lockdown, and the continuing social distancing regulations, forced a rapid rethink. Plymouth is working with the Universities of Exeter and Falmouth, along with Truro and Penwith College, and Cornwall Collegeto deliver the programme. The University is also offering business-led training and intervention to fill skills gaps and knowledge.
“We need to be adaptive and resilient when dealing with change, and being agile in such a fast-paced world is crucial to success, especially in uncertain times like these,” 
added Jo. 
“Lockdown drove us to innovate instead of cancelling our internship programs. This new virtual style of internship is designed to ensure the safety of our students and the business community, while retaining the benefits.”
The Virtual Internships Programme is underway with placements already working effectively with businesses. To register interest, and to check eligibility, email for further information.