What evidence is there that internships secure employment?

The concept of internships itself is a slippery one. The term internship covers a wide range of experiences from programs to introduce the long-term unemployed to working, to white collar internships for recent university graduates.

Internships designed to get jobs for the unemployed are the focus in Australia’s current election campaign. A key example is the Coalition proposed Youth Jobs PaTH (Prepare, Trial, Hire) program for youth on income support.

Like earlier iterations of work-for-the-dole programs this type of internship forces engagement with work, and has been criticised for being too narrow. Australian research shows that these types of programs restrict young people from searching for jobs as they try to meet the program requirements.

More typically, internships are often required as part of an academic qualification or in attempts to secure employment after graduation. Historically, before the shift of qualifications to universities, some areas of study, such as teaching, pharmacy and nursing, operated apprenticeships with on-the-job training as the accepted method of learning. In these disciplines and courses, learning occurred in the workplace under the supervision of qualified and experienced practitioners.

Within universities, internships are part of a suite of measures designed to better integrate formal education and work. Under this model, internships are aligned with a drive for more experiential learning.

Whether or not participants in these university internships get jobs varies depending on what they are studying. For example a Canadian study found that arts, humanities and social science university graduates who participated in these types of internships, experienced less likelihood of securing a relevant full-time job. But this type of analysis generally overlooks the impact of labour market issues, like the supply of graduate jobs.

Another small study of Australian urban planning students found that, in addition to participating in internships as a mandatory part of their degree, many students also resorted to periods of unpaid work in an effort to improve their employment prospects.

In general, research supports the assertion that internships help graduates obtain employment, but most of this research is based on surveys of studentor employer perceptions, or both, not on employment statistics.

Perception surveys ask people what they think about something. For example, do you think an internship will be useful in the search for a job? Most people will answer yes. Data from these types of studies are not objective and have no link to outcomes. Thinking an internship is valuable will not get you a job.

Employment data is a more reliable indicator. However, it is difficult to isolate the impact of internships on employment outcomes. For example, studies (and students) tend to overlook the contribution of paid part-time work, such as in hospitality and retail, to graduate employability. To read more click here.

The 2016 Australian Long-Term Unemployment Conference; Finding Solutions will be held on the 1-2 December 2016, at the Mercure in Brisbane. To register for the Conference CLICK HERE.

The conference theme focuses on industry working together with employment agencies to create positive outcomes for Australia’s long-term unemployed.

Authors or organisations interested in presenting at the 2016 Australian Long-Term Unemployment Conference are invited to submit a 300 word abstract. To submit an abstract CLICK HERE.

Combining practical examples, theory, research and best practice this conference elevates the dialogue to include businesses, not-for-profits, Government agencies, human resource professionals, social security services and industrial relations advocates.