Meijer transitions to virtual internships

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
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Meijer is not letting COVID-19 social distancing guidance stop its annual summer internship program.

To safely conduct its college internship program in the face of the pandemic, Meijer adapted it to support a 100% virtual model. Starting on June 1, the Midwest discount retailer launched the 10-week internship with 78 students from 30 colleges and universities across the country.

The program was originally scheduled to begin mid-May; however, it took time to transition to an all-virtual setting, including the need to ship each student a laptop computer. Once students were onboarded, they began their specific work assignments, which required them to be virtually embedded with the specific teams they were assigned to. This allowed interns to gain experience through hands-on project work in the business areas they supported.

Meijer enhanced the program's digital platform to better support connectivity and streamline communications among students. Meijer added weekly virtual chats, and adapted in-person training sessions for virtual learning and rescoped projects to allow for group collaboration. The program also includes bi-weekly meetings among interns.

Originally, Meijer expected to employ 121 interns during summer 2020. However, 43 internships that primarily focused on store operations and supply chain were cancelled due to the pandemic. For those students, Meijer provided guaranteed internships for 2021 for incoming juniors and seniors and guaranteed interviews for graduating seniors to discuss full-time employment opportunities. The retailer also partnered with the National Retail Foundation (NRF) to provide a summer learning experience surrounding the retail industry and offered a stipend to help offset a portion of the financial impact the cancellation may have caused.

"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, senior VP of HR, Meijer. "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 is a privately-owned, Grand Rapids, Mich.-based retailer that operates 253 supercenters and grocery stores throughout Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, and Wisconsin.