Federal agencies seek virtual interns

“Due to the current COVID-19 situation, [Employer Name] has postponed all recruitment of interns until further notice.”

This message has become all too common as students who were expecting to gain experience in a 2020 summer internship are now struggling to figure out what to do. But all is not lost. There is still hope to find internship opportunities, and the United States government is providing it.

Many employers are beginning to modify their regular internship programs into remote and virtual experiences. This concept is not new to the federal government, which started its Virtual Student Federal Service (VSFS) in 2009 and will be recruiting soon. Applications for the 2020-2021 VSFS program will be accepted from July 1-31, 2020.

VSFS is managed by the State Department’s Bureau of Information Resource Management’s Office of eDiplomacy which works with a large number of federal agencies on this program. Although many summer internships are usually three months, this is an eight-month remote internship program for college-level students and above who are U.S. citizens and would like to work for the U.S. government.

Virtual interns can work anywhere around the world and are only working on unclassified projects. During their internship they are assigned and report to mentors at the State Department and other federal government agencies in the U.S. and around the world by email, phone or video chat. The State Department has a large number of virtual internship opportunities listed that include: analyzing Chinese Official Social Media Trends in the Southern African Region, Monitoring and Evaluating European Economic, Disinformation, and Foreign Assistance Measures, and working on Cultural Diplomacy Exchanges for Music, Dance, Film, Hip Hop, Culinary Arts, Poetry, etc.

Peruse the VSFS site and you will find other agencies with interesting projects. The Department of Health and Human Services has an opening for a data and analytics interns for SUMMER 2020 Supporting the Fight Against COVID-19. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has an opportunity for CDC Global Response Training Development Support. The U.S. Forest Service is looking for virtual interns to help with the implementation and monitoring of Woodsy Owl Social Media Platforms. These are a few of the hundreds of virtual internship opportunities available.

Some may question if these internships are as fulfilling as working at the actual agency. Faith Konidaris, a security and risk analysis student at Penn State University thinks so. She produced a video about her virtual internship experience with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence which VSFS shared on their LinkedIn and Twitter sites.

“I’ve had the privilege of working as a VSFS intern with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence National Security Partners private sector. This year my project was ODNI USA-14 and consisted of working on research and analysis of emerging technologies in regards to protecting and defending critical infrastructure,” Konidaris said. “This program allowed me to work from home on my own time on subjects I found interesting. Learning about the intelligence community in classes helped relate to real world experience, but research outside of the classroom taught me more than I could ever get out of a textbook. I also built connections with those [with whom] I worked.”

Konidaris highly recommended students consider applying to the program.

You can find the Virtual Student Federal Service site and social media here:

Website: https://vsfs.state.gov/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/VSFSatState

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/showcase/usdos-vsfs/

There are over 40 agencies looking for virtual student interns. Applications are open in the month of July and if you’re selected, the program runs from September through May – not exactly a summer internship, but consider this:  You will be making a difference.

Derrick T. Dortch is host of Fed Access on the Federal News Network. He is also President of The Diversa Group and President and Senior Career Consultant for National Security & International Affairs (NSIA) Career Services. a company providing career services to individuals interested in and working in the national security and international affairs sectors. He is also Director of Career Services & Special Programs at The Institute of World Politics, a graduate school of National Security & International Affairs.

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