Ottawa, ON

BHER offers summer interns a virtual work-integrated learning experience

With the end of the school year, post-secondary students across Canada are facing uncertainty about summer work-integrated learning placements such as co-ops and internships. Some placements have been put on hold and others cancelled outright as the COVID-19 crisis continues to unfold. However, some employers are taking the opportunity to reframe the delivery of summer work placements and creating virtual learning opportunities for students instead. 

The Business / Higher Education Roundtable (BHER) is bridging the digital divide with the addition of three summer interns. Solène Jollivet, Andrew Paulley and Emma Tomas joined BHER May 4 and will work remotely until it is safe to return to the office – health and safety is the guiding principle for all staff. 

“This isn’t the internship experience we originally thought we would deliver but we’re embracing the opportunity to support students in developing important skills,” says Dr. Valerie Walker, Chief Executive Officer. “COVID-19 is challenging on so many levels but it’s also an opportunity to explore new ways of learning and working.”

BHER is committed to delivering a meaningful, high-quality virtual internship program. The organization has adapted its traditional internship program to fit the new normal: Video conferencing for meetings, online collaboration tools, and frequent check-ins, are underpinned by well-defined intern projects. 

Successful onboarding is a key component of the internship experience. A smooth start can make an important difference in how well the intern integrates and gets the information needed to advance projects. With this in mind, the BHER team set up a detailed orientation schedule and checklist with key meetings, background materials, and logistics. Weekly team meetings also include an ice breaker to help interns build community and integrate with the organizational culture. 

Virtual onboarding is a new experience for many students and employers. “We are hearing from our partners that onboarding in a virtual environment is a significant area of interest,” notes Malcom Anderson, BHER’s Director of Work-Integrated Learning. “With the COVID-19 situation there is a need for tools and resources that reflect the new reality of remote working and learning.” 

A key focus for BHER is developing tools and resources to support employers and students to create successful work-integrated placements. The new summer interns will be working as part of BHER’s Work-Integrated Learning Team and will be focused on product development and research. They bring diverse skill sets in research, knowledge translation, design thinking and technology. 

“We are excited to welcome our first virtual cohort of summer interns,” says Anderson. “This is a significant opportunity for BHER to learn from their experiences and shape future programming and learning opportunities.”

Meet BHER’s summer interns: Solène, Andrew and Emma here.

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Additional Information:

Virtual Onboarding Checklist

  • Stay organized. Maintain a shared checklist and schedule of onboarding activities and tasks to keep the manager and intern on the same page.
  • Define the project and put it in writing. A well defined project is critical to a successful WIL – even more so in a virtual environment. 
  • Be flexible. Virtual onboarding can be overwhelming. Allow enough time to digest information and ask questions.
  • Provide informal opportunities for interns to build community, have fun and understand the organizational culture. Include informal check-ins, ice breakers and ‘Lunch and Learns’ in the orientation schedule.
  • Stay connected. Assign a ‘buddy’ to assist with orientation and information. Set up weekly check-ins to provide feedback. 


Co-operative Education and Work-Integrated Learning Canada (CEWIL Canada):

Tips for onboarding students remotely: