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Internship & Vocational Experience

The popularity of internships among employers and students has steadily increased every year. Internship can be full time or part time, paid or unpaid, a few weeks or a full year in length, for undergraduate or graduate students, local or international. Internship is a form of experiential learning that integrates knowledge and theory learned in the classroom with practical application and skill development in a professional setting.

Interns are given significant work to do for the organization, with hours of tasks such as filing and copying. The expectation differs from a part-time hire who is paid for performing whatever tasks the employer assigns, mental or not. Legitimate internship means experience must be an extension of the classroom and a learning experience that provides for applying the knowledge gained in the classroom. It must not be simply to advance the operations of the employer or be the work that a regular employee would routinely perform.

The skills and knowledge learned must be transferable to other employment settings. The internship experience has a defined beginning and end, and a job description with desired qualifications. There are clearly defined learning objectives/goals related to the professional goals of the student’s academic coursework.

In internship there is supervision by a professional with expertise and educational and / or professional background in the field of the experience.

There is always routine feedback by the experienced supervisors. In internship resources, equipment, and facilities are provided by the host employer to support learning objectives / goals. An intern can give the company additional talent to complete an existing project or to start a new one, to expand into a new line of business, or to bring knowledge that the current employees might not possess, such as working with social media among others. Interns can also have additional benefits to the organization like energy and fresh ideas that they bring to the workplace, and the positive publicity at their universities that will be given to the organization by the intern. Internship may be a cost effective and efficient way to potentially hire full time employees.

Just as new employees, the interns want to see that they are welcome in the workplace. The way to convey this feeling is to be ready for the interns on their first day. There should be an assigned work space, telephone, uniforms and other materials (if applicable), computer log in password, email access and name place or name badge. An orientation and a tour of all the offices /departments and meeting of staff should be completed within the first few days of the internship.

Inviting the interns to staff meetings or other departments’ gatherings will integrate the interns into the work team quickly. The interns want to do “real work” for the employer. They want to be of benefit to the organization’s mission. In addition, they want to learn about the career fields and industry of the employer. It is helpful to the interns if they can be given the opportunity to cross train with other work units. It is helpful for the interns to network with employees in other parts of the organization, especially the senior management.

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