Meijer has a robust college internship program, but with the COVID-19 pandemic, its 2020 class was bound to look a little different, if it happened at all. The retailer has decided to support a 100% virtual model for 78 students from 30 colleges and universities across the country.
The 10-week program began June 1 after shipping 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 them to gain experience through hands-on project work in the business areas they supported.
"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 vice president of human resources. "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."
Originally, Meijer expected to employ 121 interns this summer. However, 43 internships that primarily focused on store operations and supply chain were canceled due to the pandemic. Those students will receive:
- Guaranteed internships for 2021 for incoming juniors and seniors.
- Guaranteed interviews for graduating seniors to discuss full-time employment opportunities.
- Partnership with the National Retail Foundation to provide a summer learning experience surrounding the retail industry.
- A stipend to help offset a portion of the financial impact the cancellation may have caused.
For those 78 students who are part of the virtual program, Meijer added weekly chats to give the interns an opportunity to connect and learn about numerous business areas like sustainability, diversity and inclusion, leadership and an executive speaker series. The in-person training sessions were also adapted for virtual learning, and projects were rescoped to allow for group projects to provide even more networking opportunities. The program also includes bi-weekly meetings among interns to talk about challenges, share successes and have fun.
"Many of my friends from college were unable to participate in their original plan for this summer due to the pandemic. I am grateful that Meijer adapted to the current situation and created an adjusted program for us to participate in," said Bonnie McCall, an intern on the Meijer Community Partnerships & Giving Team from Michigan State University. "Their persistence speaks volumes to the care they have for team members."
Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Meijer operates more than 245 supercenters and grocery stores throughout Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky and Wisconsin. The company is No. 19 on PG's 2020 PG 100 list of the top grocers in the United States.