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EY Internship Incorporates Metaverse


A man is looking at a computer screen with the word metaverse on it.

​Accounting major Soo Bin Park was among the 2,600 interns who stepped into EY's metaverse to complete challenges that ranged from designing sneakers to navigating a virtual scavenger hunt.

"WeVerse," an online metaverse experience launched this year, is a way to educate interns on the global accounting consultancy's culture, purpose and values in a fun and memorable way, said Domhnaill Hernon, EY's global Metaverse Labs lead. For example, the scavenger hunt connected participants to EY's core values as they solved riddles and searched for hidden keys. A garden-themed challenge, called "Rooted in Purpose," was an opportunity for participants how to create a personal statement that resonated with others.

"Our interns are mainly Gen Z, which means they have a larger comfort [level] with playing online games," Hernon said. WeVerse "meets them where they are and the need for them to interact with the world" by engaging in fun, immersive experiences.

The weeklong Kicks Challenge that Park participated in, for example, fostered creativity, curiosity and teamwork as interns designed their own sneaker. The winning design was mass-produced and given to the 2023 summer intern cohort.

The WeVerse, said Ginnie Carlier, EY's Americas vice chair, talent, is a way to excite interns about EY, "giving them a flavor of our values, our purpose, in an interactive way."

EY may be onto something. Generation Z members and Millennials have the highest technology and digital experience expectations in the workplace, according to a report from Riverbed, a technology company based in San Francisco.

Riverbed's Global Digital Employee Experience Survey 2023 found nearly all (91 percent) of the more than 1,800 global IT leaders from 10 countries agreed that it was incumbent upon organizations over the next five years to provide more advanced digital experiences to meet Generation Z's and Millennials' needs. More than two-thirds (68 percent) said a failure to do so will prompt younger employees to leave.

The WeVerse experience resonated with Park, a Middle Tennessee State University student whose friends develop video games. 

"A lot of us grew up playing video games," she said. "It's in our nature, almost." 

During her internship at EY's Nashville office, Park rotated through various departments in different buildings. The virtual world provided constancy and scenic environments.

"It was fun to be at work," she said, "but be in a different universe and explore" interactive learning sessions on industry topics such as cryptocurrency. Delivering embedded content in this way, according to EY, allowed students to engage with subjects such as generative AI, sustainability and leading with a growth mindset.

EY intern Ethan Petersen, a senior accounting student at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, would like to see the metaverse used to guide interns with client-facing work.

He recalled feeling "super-duper nervous" about interacting with clients while working in EY's Sacramento office and noted WeVerse's potential to prepare students like himself for those interactions, much like the desktop flight simulator his roommate uses as he studies to become a pilot. 

WeVerse "can be that kind of simulator for accountants," suggested Petersen, who will join EY as a full-time employee after graduating in April.

Creating WeVerse

The seeds for WeVerse were planted after a survey EY conducted across its workforce found that while all generations value workplace experiences, how they defined those experiences varied.

The initiative came together in three months and launched in July. Its virtual reality environment consists of various portals, with new experiences offered twice weekly.

However, while the metaverse was the media used, the content EY developed was not wholly tech-centric, Carlier said.

"Doing the day-to-day work in teams was primary," she said, including having exposure to EY clients. "That's going to be a foundation when they come on full time."

One challenge had interns working in teams, under the coaching of EY sustainability leaders, to find ways to help clients build more sustainable businesses while creating value.

Carlier advises employers to consider the "why" in developing a metaverse as part of the internship experience. EY tied its program to leadership, tech and future-based skills, she said.

"We are committed as an organization to hybrid-teaming, that true balance of being in person and what can be done virtually" at work.

It also considered where WeVerse would add the most value, Hernon said, "and how to build a road map so you can expand sensibly. We're very careful where we apply [it]."

Carlier stressed the importance of testing. EY invited employees of younger generations, and interns such as Park, to test WeVerse prior to launch.

"What we gained from that investment enhanced the experience." 

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