College students from 30 universities looking forward to a summer gaining real-world retail experience as interns for Meijer Inc. saw their opportunity interrupted by the coronavirus crisis, but the retailer was quick to make adjustments.
“Meijer has always been a nimble company, willing and able to adapt in the face of change. The coronavirus forced us to alter the way we do our jobs, but we rose to the challenge once again for these students,” said Michael Rotelle, SVP of human resources of the Grand Rapids, Mich.-based company. “While nothing can replace the in-person learning and collaboration these students would have received from our team members, I’m proud of the Meijer team for adapting our program to ensure a valuable—and safe—virtual summer experience.”
Meijer welcomed 78 students from 30 universities on June 1 to begin the 10-week virtual program. It had been originally scheduled to begin in mid-May, but it took time for the retailer to make the switch, including shipping computers to all of the students. Once on board, each student made contact with their fellow team members to begin their specific work assignments. One of the key elements of the internship program at Meijer is the requirement that each intern work on a specific project with a deliverable that has a direct impact on the business.
An enhanced digital platform supports the program’s needed connectivity and communications among the interns as they meet weekly for virtual chats and connect with team members to learn about sustainability, diversity and inclusion, leadership and an executive speaker series. The in-person training sessions were also adapted for virtual learning and projects were rescoped to allow for group projects to provide even more networking opportunities. The program also includes biweekly meetings among interns to talk about challenges, share successes and have fun.
The original in-person internship program was to host 121 interns; however, 43 of those positions that focused primarily on store operations and supply chain were canceled due to the pandemic. For those students, Meijer provided the following benefits:
- Guaranteed internships for 2021 for incoming juniors and seniors.
- Guaranteed interviews for graduating seniors to discuss full-time employment opportunities.
- A summer learning experience surrounding the retail industry through a partnership with the National Retail Foundation
- A stipend to help offset a portion of the financial impact the cancellation may have caused.
“Many of my friends from college were unable to participate in their original plan for this summer due to the pandemic. I am grateful that Meijer adapted to the current situation and created an adjusted program for us to participate in,” said Bonnie McCall, an intern on the Meijer Community Partnerships & Giving Team from Michigan State University. “Their persistence speaks volumes to the care they have for team members.”