How TIG seeks to equalize remote job opportunities for diverse, talented students across the world
Virtual internship programs open doors to international work experience
Recently John North spoke with Andy Dillow, CEO of The Intern Group (TIG) about the importance of helping students everywhere realise their potential by gaining international work experience either virtually or in-person. While the world of work is evolving, the pipeline of emerging talent to fill new roles — traditionally through internships — has not. During their conversation, Dillow shared his own and his team’s experience with supporting talented people to succeed in their careers, no matter where they start. We’re pleased to share this conversation as a reflection of business model innovation that embraces whole-person learning approaches, an “I, We and All of Us” orientation, and a commitment to engaging with all learners worldwide. The GRLI Community is invited to complete a survey on the “Future of Work” and to attend an 7 October event where the results will be discussed. See below for details.
John North: How does TIG help prioritise “all of us” by equalising remote job opportunities for diverse, talented students across the world?
Andy Dillow: If the pandemic has shown us anything, it’s that the future of work includes far more flexibility and improvisation in how roles are defined and how work gets done. What we haven’t figured out so far is the inequality of opportunity for who fulfills these roles, and the talents they can bring to teams. Recruiting people is only the first part of the opportunity issue. We have to make up for all the inequalities that led to that point.
Many talented people haven’t had coaching in industry-specific language fluency and professional skills. The TIG program not only uncovers and discovers the top talent in underserved communities, we also support them and train them to be job ready.
We believe that highly decentralized and flexible work roles will be the norm going forward. There’s a strong possibility that our children and grandchildren will never work for one company at one place and time.
We are in the business of helping young people to realise their potential.
JN: Can you describe how TIG goes about helping young people realise their potential?
AD: For 10 years, we have primarily done this by helping people to challenge themselves by placing them on in-person work placements in a foreign city and culture. We have a library of letters from alumni and parents saying that they or their children left home as one person, but came back with an entirely new outlook and confidence to take their place in the world.
Obviously the pandemic has challenged this model. We will always want to provide in-person culturally immersive work experience, but with the mass adoption and acceptance of virtual work, we now have a plethora of new opportunities to help more people and without them ever having to leave their homes.
We have built a strong virtual internship program with thousands of students getting international work experience from their kitchen table. However, we now see that we can do so much more.
JN: This sounds like a good opportunity to develop whole human beings in context?
AD: It is. It has never been clearer that talent is everywhere but opportunity is not. The Intern Group can do more to rectify this and help to prioritise career opportunities and development for “all of us”.
To start, we are now building a global, virtual internship program, which will partner with education providers like MIT and leading emerging market universities like Aga Khan to get direct employment opportunities for the top talent across the developing world as well as underserved communities in the US and UK.
Our program will connect students directly to employment opportunities that they would not typically have had access to and will allow companies to access new diverse talent pools, but this is not the magic sauce.
The real value that the program will add to both students and companies alike is to help prepare the interns to be genuinely ‘job ready’ and the best possible employees and team members they can be. This requires a genuine evolution in learning design that brings companies and universities together to create a learning experience where students develop both soft and hard skills that they can then apply instantly in their internship role.
From our discussions and experience with both companies and universities, they have made it clear that there are challenges with hiring genuinely diverse global talent that would not traditionally get access to these role opportunities. While the students often stand out academically, they don’t have the required understanding of their industry, business or culture and that is exactly what the global virtual internship program is designed to solve.
In short, inequality of opportunity is not just at the point of hiring, these students have had limited access to opportunities throughout their lives to this point and so to rectify this we need to help the interns to make up for what they have missed and to be incredibly productive and job ready by the end of their program.
Establishing a global virtual internship program solves a huge number of problems, but there are still challenges. By keeping global talent in their local towns and cities we not only reduce the environmental burden of getting international work experience, but it also reduces the ‘brain drain’ from these communities. However, remote work and training do come with their own challenges.
Onboarding and development of junior employees can be time intensive and provide inconsistent outcomes even when it is in person. So it is no surprise that attempting it virtually without ever meeting the team in the flesh is significantly more problematic. Companies are still working hard to solve this problem and we think we can help. We provide an additional community and mentor network that complements rather than replaces that of their direct team. This means that during their placements, the interns can bring specific challenges that they are facing to the peers and mentors in their cohort. Whether that’s technically, emotionally or culturally, they have a place to get advice and brainstorm solutions before they bring that experience back to work.
JN: What’s special about this approach, in terms of how it may be of interest to higher education and business leaders who are the ones who typically make these matches?
AD: This problem and even the solution is not new. It has just never been applied to graduate talent from underserved communities in order to equalise the opportunities that these students can access. What keeps me up at night though is how to structure an innovative business model that allows access to any talented student regardless of their financial means. To solve this we will need to make sure that the value of the service to our corporate partners is significant enough that they are willing to pay the interns salary or stipend and the arrangement fees on their behalf. To do this, it is critical to solve the challenges that companies currently face with onboarding diverse global talent remotely.
JN: We’ve talked a bit about how TIG’s work operates at the “All of Us” level. In what ways is this work serving you personally, at the “I” level?
AD: My journey that led me to dedicate my work to this challenge has not been linear, but that is the very reason why I am committed to providing better support to people entering the workforce regardless of their background. I always knew that I wanted to build something, but that was about it.
When I was growing up, I had various entrepreneurial endeavours from sweet stands to sponsored events and I even sold Christmas trees. But when it came to career advice, I was mainly just encouraged to follow the money before taking too much risk. So, I ended up in financial services. I had a great early career, I received phenomenal training and worked with fantastic people, but there was always something missing. I couldn’t find meaning in the work and the more senior roles I took on the more significant that became.
In the end, I knew that I would always regret not taking the risk of leaving to build something meaningful more than the potential risk of missing out on trappings of wealth and success in a role I wasn’t passionate about. With TIG, I love the impact we can have for increasing and improving confidence for rising leaders.
JN: What’s the next step?
AD: We’d like to warmly invite the GRLI Community to participate in this conversation. First up, please complete a survey on “The Future of Work: Uncovering New Talent & Re-skilling for a New World” and plan to attend an 7 October event where the results will be discussed.
Link to Survey.
Register for 7 October event
In closing, the challenge of creating equal job opportunities for “all of us” is a complex one but, with the acceleration of remote work, now is the perfect time to bring progressive corporations, leading universities and talented students from around the world together to make a big dent in solving it. However, this new product is just the first in TIG’s tech driven roadmap. We can help so many more people when we utilise technology and in particular digital communication to help develop diverse and talented humans to become the best that they can be in their chosen careers. To learn more, visit the TIG Virtual Internships page on our website.
Andy Dillow is CEO of The Intern Group (TIG), a global experiential learning group that helps connect emerging professionals and talented students to career-building internships. His email is: firstname.lastname@example.org or on connect on LinkedIn.