Internships are ‘golden pathways’ into employment. They are classic tools in youth employment promotion and popular with students, teachers, and human resource experts. Internships are one form of workplace learning; limited in duration and based on a contractual agreement between employer and intern (and possibly a third party, if an organiser is involved) for the benefit of both. As a multipurpose tool, internships contribute to the overall employability and to the employment prospects of labour market entrants, job-seekers and job-changers Internships can be a compulsory or voluntary part of education or training (preparation), a stepping stone into employment after graduation (matching), or a part of career orientation.
Schools, universities, and training providers organise different types of internships for career orientation, skills development and for school to work-transition. Providers are public and private enterprises and organisations.
Employers use internships to recruit young skilled, talented and motivated job-seekers.
Public institutions can have several roles: They may host interns themselves; they may support internship schemes technically or financially or disseminate them; and they have a role as regulator.
Shorter internships or job shadowing are good for career orientation of students and those seeking a job change. Longer internships can be used to reality check career ideas in order to confirm, alter, or implement career plans.
Internships are the most effective way to give students their first work experiences. Pratical learning in a real work setting enables interns to acquire practical skills, in particular the so called ‘soft’ or ‘work readiness’ or ‘employablity skills’. These are crucial for employment, however, not taught in schools.
If well targeted, internships can be stepping stones into salaried positions. Employers hire motivated candidates for internships and they prefer filling vacancies from within with people they have seen working effectivly. If interns perform well, they might be offered a salaried position if the company is, indeed, is recruiting.
Internships must be productive for both, employers and interns. Cultivating this win-win-situation and framing it with principles and rules is an important task of the organiser. Employers appreciate targeted applications and informed and motivated interns. Preparing students for the internship is very important. Students appreciate internships that are meaningful for their career development. Supporting students to review their internship experiences and to draw conclusions, is essential for its learning and career development effects.