Internships Are Going Micro, Helping Students Better Equip Themselves for the Future

Photo of Students Working on Laptops.
Mark Cornelison l UK Photo

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Sept. 27, 2019) — Could internships be a thing of the past? Not quite yet, but a new program introduced this semester at the University of Kentucky is changing the way students gain exposure in their desired career fields, adding new dimension to the student experience. 

Although often an important component of the post-grad resume, internships can be difficult to obtain. From relocation to working with no compensation, internships are a luxury out of reach to students who do not have the means or the connections. 

Now, a new model has emerged that aims to bridge this gap, giving students who can’t take part in a full internship the chance to reap many of the same advantages through experiences known as “micro-internships.”

“Micro-internships are short-term, paid, professional assignments that are similar to those given to new hires or interns,” explains Parker Dewey, the consulting organization that pioneered the concept and is the platform UK is using to offer micro-internship options. For students, they offer an excellent opportunity to gain real-world experience and connections with fewer barriers to access.

"These are great experiences for students that do not have the schedule flexibility to work at a traditional internship," said Sarah Montgomery, assistant director of experiential education at UK's James W. Stuckert Career Center. "These are also great experiences if a student wants to work for a company but is unsure if they want to commit to a traditional internship or job opportunity."

With micro-internships, students can explore more career paths and demonstrate skills to potential employers. This new format prepares students for the workforce and provides opportunities after graduation, serving as a "career launcher," says Parker Dewey. 

In its first few years, Parker Dewey says it has helped more than 1,000 students complete micro-internships at companies such as Microsoft, CBRE, Dell, Leo Burnett and Barilla. 

"Micro-internships have become popular in this gig-economy space, and we feel that it’s important to equip students with a variety of experiences that can inform their academic plans and career planning," Montgomery said. 

Unlike a traditional internship, projects range from five to 40 hours of work and most can be done online from the comfort of home. Students create an account with Parker Dewey, browse and apply for posted jobs, and bid for opportunities by writing a short application. The project-based positions offer students a fixed fee, typically equating to $15-$25 per hour.

Montgomery believes traditional internships are here to stay, but with this new micro-internship program has two important elements: 1) it gives companies a wider reach to new talent without much overhead cost, and 2) it helps students build their skills, by expanding the variety of work students can do and experience in this internship space. 

"We should anticipate more innovation and experimentation when it comes to the options available to students for connecting with companies for career opportunities," said Ray Clere, director of the Stuckert Career Center. "Micro-internships are not intended to replace traditional internship and co-op experiences, but rather to serve as another impactful way that students can connect with employers and gain early career experience."

To learn more about micro-internships at UK, click here. To explore how micro-internships fit into career strategy, schedule an appointment with a career advisor