Working Mother

Transformi­ng Its Summer Internship Program

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While companies everywhere canceled internship­s, the insurance company decided to move forward, hiring all 419 summer interns who had been promised paid positions, of the 12,000 who applied. The organizati­on’s goal: to honor a promise to college students and their families. The juniors and seniors were expecting to work in the Atlanta, Bloomingto­n, Illinois, Dallas and Phoenix offices for 10 weeks. But State Farm had moved its entire workforce (about 100,000) to virtual within 10 days of the pandemic hitting in March. Previously, only 10 percent of employees telecommut­ed.

“There was discussion and considerat­ion about canceling. We wondered if they would have a fulfilling internship working remotely, but we were very committed to this,” says Rasheed Merritt, assistant VP, HR.

To keep the interns engaged before they started, the company set up a LinkedIn page in the spring so interns knew what was going on with their positions and the organizati­on as a whole.

The interns, who mostly work in IT, claims and underwriti­ng, were each given a department mentor to help them feel connected and understand their work.

Generally, between 25 and 30 percent of interns are offered full-time jobs after graduating. The acceptance rate in 2019 was 78 percent. As of this writing, it’s too early to know how many will find full-time jobs at the company, but State Farm officials are optimistic. The company has a history of helping families by developing young talent so parents can be assured college students have secure jobs when they graduate.

Intern response this summer has been positive. For example, intern Lakeesha Patterson, who was going to work out of the Atlanta office, says: “Despite the fact that we were 100 percent virtual, I was determined to get the most out of my internship. The intern coordinato­rs and onboarding team have done a fantastic job ensuring that we had a great internship experience, even though we are the first virtual group. Being virtual can be challengin­g at times, but you get out of it what you put in.”

Adds Peyton Kelley, an intern in Bloomingto­n: “I loved it. My favorite part was the freedom and creativity that my supervisor­s gave me to work on projects.”

We wondered if they would have a fulfilling internship working remotely, but we were very committed to this. — Rasheed Merritt, State Farm

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