Are work placements the best way onto the career ladder?by
Work placements, or internships as they are more commonly known, are becoming increasingly used by large companies to trial potential employees within businesses before employing them on a more permanent basis. A work placement is simply a short period of work experience, which can be paid or unpaid, and can often be part of a study course for university students.
I'll be focusing on three particular areas:
- How internships work for those returning to education
- How internships work for those seeking permanent employment
- How internships work for the employer
Placements work particularly well for individuals who are seeking permanent employment if they use the opportunity to make a lasting impression. Employers may use the internship as a way to provide an extended training program, and on review of the applicant decide to take on that individual in a permanent role - this would ideally be the best case scenario. Perhaps applicants seeking permanent employment even have an advantage over the interns who are returning to education due to their ability to commit more of their time. On the other side of the coin, this win/win situation cannot always occur, so what are the mid- to long-term benefits to the individual if a permanent job isn't secured at the end of the placement? The intern is bound to feel hard done by, especially if they felt they did enough to secure a role within the company.
Depending on your other commitments, the placement's 6-12 week time-frame could either be a help or a hindrance. Is 6-12 weeks a significant time for someone to make a lasting impact in a business? How can the employer analyse the person's strengths if they spend the first two weeks learning their way around the building and the basic ins and outs of the job? This raises the issue of the potential value of the internship to the employer, do employers recognise this short time-frame as a possible pitfall and only give the intern the laborious tasks that everybody in the business knows they have to do but don't want to. Nobody benefits from cursory efforts. Both parties have to be gung-ho.
The work placement program is one of the few training frameworks that particularly focuses on what's in it for the individual. Before a work placement is undertaken by an intern they should consider for themselves; what do I want to get out of this? Am I using this as an opportunity to build up my CV? Is this going to help me in get into my desired career? Once an established career path is developed, it's then a matter of what route to take.
Nathan Pearson-Smith is apprenticeship ambassador for Youth Connexions