College internships during a pandemic? A local company is making it work

Most students having gone online, businesses learn how to make internships work virtually

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - When colleges moved online, most internships abruptly stopped, leaving students without hands-on learning experience. But some local businesses are now making it work, virtually.

Farm Link Hawaii, delivers locally grown food to customers, an essential service during the pandemic.

The Kalihi warehouse is one of the few places business school interns can get hands on experience, because most learning has been moved online.

“Communicating with my supervisors and the farmers through zoom calls, emails, phone calls,” said Maya Murray-Pasion, a University of Hawaii Manoa student.

Malia Aiello is also interning at Farm Link Hawaii. The University of San Francisco business student is learning to be an entrepreneur, “Working with the packers, the delivery drivers, trying to ensure that the fleets they embark on every day are as efficient as possible.”

While both women do most work online, they do visit the farm and the warehouse.

Wednesday, when we caught up with them, they were filling boxes of vegetables for customers, weighing the produce before sealing them in bags.

Aiello, a graduate of Kamehameha Schools, said the virtual internship has allowed her to be home with her family this summer, instead of staying in California where COVID-19 cases are spiking.

Another company still welcoming interns, Elemental Excelerator. a non profit that helps fund small businesses which focus on the environment.

Tate Castillo is getting a business degree and a law degree from the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

“You can’t have an internship at the courts if the courts are shutdown,” said Castillo, who had done a previous internship with the Intermediate Court of Appeals.

He’s now with Elemental Excelerator to learn the legal challenges that come with owning a business. He already has one, Kope Soap, which converts coffee waste into environmentally safe cleaning bars.

His internship is exclusively online, “We have a lot of platforms like Slack and Basecamp, to get a better idea of what everyone’s doing.”

The students have learned to be more responsible and manage their time while learning from home.

“Being able to stay on track and take initiative to know what I have to get done,” said Aiello.

Virtual learning also makes it tough to build relationships, “Our business culture is very informal, more of a family style. You lose that by only being able to communicate by Zoom,” said Castillo.

All are looking forward to meetings and the ‘water cooler’ environment when the pandemic is over but agree that some aspects of virtual internships will likely be a permanent change.

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