Student adapts to remote school and internship

Courtesy photoOlivia DeVito

SALEM, N.H. — This semester, Salem High senior Olivia DeVito was one of the five students who kept her internship as businesses made the transition into remote work. 

Thirty-five other students were forced to end their internships, according to Stacey Kallelis, Salem's work based learning coordinator.

In Salem and nationally internships are some of the casualties of the coronavirus pandemic. Because of the economic and heath fallout of the coronavirus, 4% of companies rescinded their internship offers while 37% of companies instituted hiring freezes in some of the most important summer internship hiring months, according to a survey by recruiting company Challenger, Grey & Christmas Inc.

DeVito's social media and marketing internship with Rick's Motorsport Electrics in Hampstead is one of the internships that has not been cut. 

"Oliva fills a very important role here for us," her boss Amanda Laidlaw, communications manager for the company. "She does all of our social media postings and offers that insight from a younger demographic which is important for social media. During this time everyone is on social media, we’ve seen huge spikes in our online reach."

DeVito's work ethic also made her essential, Laidlaw said. 

“She’s a gem, we didn’t want to lose her," Laidlaw said.

DeVito had been working in the office since January, so she had already made strong connections and gotten to know the brand when the transition to remote work happened. 

“It’s definitely been difficult, however, me and my mentor have phone calls or FaceTimes once a week so we come up with a gameplan for the week,” said the senior who is headed to Salem State University for a business degree next year.

Business is good for the company that sells electronic components for outdoor recreation vehicles like ATVs, dirt bikes and jet skis, Laidlaw said. However, as many other businesses have seen, there's been a challenge to adapt to the remote workplace. 

"There can be a lack of cohesiveness with communication," she said. However, "the Zoom meetings even just as a check-in with people can be helpful.”

As a mother of two young children herself, Laidlaw knows that people are dealing with other personal challenges on top of work. For DeVito that means adjusting to remote schooling in her senior year.

That transition has also been eased with open communication, DeVito said.

“That transition has definitely been difficult," she said. "My teachers have made it as smooth as possible and they are constantly asking if we need help.”

While many people have been able to make the transition into remote work and school, DeVito doesn't necessarily see it as the future. The in-person connections are still important to her.

“It will definitely be something that can happen," DeVito said. "If there happens to be another outbreak we will be more prepared because we’ve done it and know what works and what doesn’t.”

As businesses are starting to resume, Kallelis is working on a plan for next year to help students get an internship. She foresees many students wanting internships especially in the spring. She encourages local businesses to reach out to her if they can take on an intern possibly in the fall or spring of next year.

Internships are important for students and businesses alike, she said. Often students can find out what they want to do without wasting much time or money with a high school internship, and businesses are able to access students' perspectives and get a fresh look at things.

DeVito also said that she was interested in pursuing an internship because of the first-hand knowledge she gained.

Laidlaw said she has always had luck with Salem High School interns and looks forward to continuing to work with the school.

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