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Coronavirus clouds prospects for summer internships

Tyler Donovan is a junior at UMass Dartmouth.Lane Turner/Globe Staff

Tyler Donovan had already interned at DraftKings and Rochester Electronics during his first two years of college, so he was feeling pretty good about his prospects for this coming summer.

The junior, a graphic design major at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, was well into the interview process with the Boston marketing agencies Hill Holliday and Jack Morton Worldwide and the Burlington software company Nuance Communications.

Then the coronavirus disrupted everything.

“It went downhill quickly,” said Donovan, 21, who lives in Nahant. “One called and said, ‘We are very sorry, we are going to have to get rid of the internship due to the coronavirus,’ and then it was a domino effect, one after the other.”

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A recent Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. survey of national human resources departments found that 4 percent said they were revoking internship offers. Another 17 percent said they either had not taken action or were waiting to take action on hiring policies because of COVID-19. Those numbers probably have only gotten bigger.

Several companies in Massachusetts did not respond to requests for comment about the status of their summer internships, but a crowdsourced website created by three students at Arizona State University indicates that some Boston-area internships have been canceled, including positions at Wayfair, TripAdvisor, and Thermo-Fisher Scientific. Other employers have informed students that they were still monitoring the situation, according to the site.

But some companies say they will still welcome summer interns — but online, instead of in person.

Akamai Technologies plans to remotely sign up over 50 interns this summer across multiple departments. But before the Cambridge company made its announcement, several incoming interns reached out to confirm that their positions were still on.

“There were panicked students worried that they would lose their internship offers,” said Kerry Condon, senior director of global talent acquisition. “We’ve also heard from students who maybe interviewed with us and then ended up going to a different company, calling back and saying, ‘Hey I’ve lost my internship, is there any opportunity to come to Akamai?' "

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Unfortunately, Condon said, a byproduct of the coronavirus is that some students won’t have internships this summer. But she said they shouldn’t worry too much ― she expects companies to take the unusual circumstances into consideration when they make decisions about hiring.

“A lot of interns get hired into the company where they do their last internship — it’s like a feeder pool for companies,” she said. “Students may struggle to find jobs because they don’t have automatic entrances, but I wouldn’t want anyone to panic because how we hire next year may look very different.”

Akamai also runs two co-op rotations each year, and current co-ops have been equipped to work remotely for the rest of their term, which ends in the fall. Co-op students typically take college classes while working.

“It is tough, but no one has any control over what is going on in the world right now,” Donovan said. “Of course, I was looking forward to an internship, but at the same time, no one could have foreseen or had any control over this.”

Gregory Victory, executive director of the career center at Tufts University, said that in his 20 years of working in higher education, he hasn’t seen anything affect the job market for students like COVID-19. For the past few weeks, his office has been fielding messages from students about canceled internships, rescinded job offers, and remote-position offers for the past few weeks.

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“Several employers have reached out to us when they have had to rescind job and internship offers, and they tell us about students who have been impacted — we immediately reach out to the students to offer our support and services,” he said.

Emerson College senior Meilssa Rosales hoped to secure a summer internship at National Public Radio in Washington, D.C., for the summer. Last week, she received an e-mail about her application status. The soon-to-be graduate thought it might be an offer.

“I was like ‘Oh, my God’, did I get it?’ ” she said. “But then it was just them canceling the internship, and I was really sad — I spent the most time applying to NPR."

The journalism major had interviewed an NPR employee for a class assignment and made a routine of listening to NPR programming on her daily commute. Now, she has a created a spreadsheet to track her applications to other journalism internships, jobs, and freelance opportunities, all of which are spread out across the country.

But she isn’t getting her hopes up.

“There is a big possibility that I will work at Legal Sea Foods as a server over the summer, if the industry opens up again, but I wanted to get to work the second I graduated,” Rosales said. “I always viewed that job as something transitional — I would rather see a byline than see a tip.”

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For most students, summer plan are still up in the air, as they await dreaded e-mails or phone calls about cancellations.

“This is a tough and uncertain time, and many students are unsure how all of these changes will impact their career plans,” Eleanor Cartelli, senior associate director at the Boston University Center for Career Development, said in an e-mail.

While Cartelli said her office is hearing about students whose internships have been postponed or rescinded, some companies are reaching out to the university with work-at-home opportunities.

“We are seeing a surge of remote internships in our internal job postings database,” she said.


Anissa Gardizy can be reached at anissa.gardizy@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @anissagardizy8.