Leading businesses to provide DCU Access students with virtual or hybrid internships

Over 180 business leaders attended a virtual event hosted by DCU Educational Trust on Wednesday, 20th January, to hear about building diverse talent pipelines, the role of internships, and virtual or hybrid work placements as a valuable experience for both interns and companies in a Covid-19 world.

The event marked the launch of DCU’s 2021 Access to the Workplace programme, which provides high quality summer internships for Access students from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds, hosted by over 55 leading Irish companies.

Keynote speakers included Dublin football manager and Irish Aviation Authority Director, Jim Gavin, DCU Business School’s Professor David Collings, and BT Ireland’s Head of Communications, Priscilla O’Regan.

Jim Gavin shared some insight and lessons from both the sporting and business worlds on how to build, maintain and motivate talent pipelines: 

“In sport, I have always believed it is critical to constantly think about giving youth a chance, and this is equally important in the business world. What struck me about the DCU Access to the Workplace programme is the opportunity which it offers to young people who might not otherwise have the chance to work in a professional work environment during their studies. 

Whilst students obviously benefit a lot from this opportunity, participating companies also stand to gain immensely by bringing vital youth and diversity into their talent pipelines. Having such a mix of experience and perspectives is something which I found contributed hugely to creating a high-performance environment with Dublin teams over many years.”


Research released by the Higher Education Authority in 2019 shows that students from disadvantaged areas continue to earn less than students from more affluent areas, even when all other factors are equal after graduation. Although using summer months to gain professional experience related to their degree can significantly enhance a student’s future career prospects, many students from disadvantaged backgrounds do not possess the social and professional networks that can help to secure paid, professional summer work experience.

Speaking about the DCU Access Programme and the importance of the Access to the Workplace programme, DCU President, Professor Daire Keogh, said:

“In less than 3 years, the DCU Access to the Workplace has become a vital pillar in our ambition to democratise the transformative power of education, by providing opportunities for our students to flourish irrespective of their social background. 

The participants’ workplace experience has been hugely beneficial for their professional development, and given them access to opportunities they simply would not have otherwise had. The success of this initiative is thanks to the vision of the many progressive companies and organisations who have partnered with us in helping to increase the diversity of our economy’s talent pipelines.”


While some internships weren’t possible last year due to Covid-19, DCU hopes that all 57 current partners, and further new supporters, will participate in this year’s programme to offer virtual, hybrid or office-based internships for students, in keeping with any restrictions.

Recognising that virtual or hybrid internships may be preferable for many employers and students again this year, Professor David Collings, Director of DCU’s Leadership and Talent Institute, is leading a research project on effective virtual and hybrid internships with support from Deloitte. This research will lead to a toolkit to support all partner companies who offer internships in 2021.

Partner company BT Ireland provided internships in 2020. Priscilla O’Regan, Head of Communications, spoke of her experience with the programme:

“Through our investment in quality education initiatives like the DCU Access To The Workplace programme, we know that a little extra support for those facing obstacles and hardships can transform lives and clear the path to a better future. This also broadens the talent pool in Ireland and helps us realise our ambition to have a more diverse workforce.”


DCU’s Access to the Workplace programme was established by DCU Educational Trust and the DCU Access Programme in 2019. It is backed by Rethink Ireland’s Children and Youth Fund, which is supporting the growth and development of the programme over the next three years. 

Click below to watch the full event:


For further information, visit dcu.ie/accesstotheworkplace.

Impact Stories