In response to federal office space reductions and the need for more creative workforce solutions, the federal government is expanding its use of virtual interns.
The term, “virtual intern” describes interns who provide services and perform a job for an agency or organization without being physically housed within the federal workspace. Whether they work from their own home, or out of a university, these individuals will have jobs which require a minimum amount of supervision, to include: research, writing, social media, editing, human resources, graphic arts, video creation and production, and numerous other tasks.
The program isn’t a new phenomenon. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has been offering virtual internships since 2001 and has found them to be a beneficial option for the agency and the intern. The ability to work while attending college, without having to be physically onsite enables more students to work on projects which would be geographically restrictive and create scheduling issues. The program also offers significant cost-savings compared to funding interns living in the Washington, D.C. area.
See a video about the State Department Virtual Internship Program, which outlines how the State Department is using virtual interns for a wide variety of assignments, such as speech translation services and other day-to-day tasks which don’t require them to travel abroad.
Program directors with the USDA program note that the virtual intern program has been free of difficulties and major challenges and has expanded opportunities for interns.
As government telework options increase and costs continue to rise for office space, equipment, and other cost associated with onsite workers, creative, successful, and innovative solutions are essential to keep the workforce working and budgets in check. Choosing virtual interns to perform certain functions may be another option for government agencies, particularly compared with cutting programs completely.
Diana M. Rodriguez is a native Washingtonian who currently works as a professional writer, blogger, social media expert, commentator, editor and public affairs practitioner. Diana previously worked as an editor and senior communications analyst for the Department of Defense.