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HUMAN RESOURCES

Internships most effective job-search

Internships for business students are quite common in leading Western business schools. This mechanism introduces students, usually in their last year of study, to the world of commerce. Internships teach through direct involvement and real world experience, complementing the theory and ideas learned in the classroom. Internships produce benefits for all parties involved: firms, educational institutions and students.


photo: Keith C. 'Carlos' Gutiérrez

Internships for business students are quite common in leading Western business schools. This mechanism introduces students, usually in their last year of study, to the world of commerce. Internships teach through direct involvement and real world experience, complementing the theory and ideas learned in the classroom. Internships produce benefits for all parties involved: firms, educational institutions and students.

Firms benefit from having the assistance of senior business students who are dynamic, resourceful and innovative. Students bring to the workplace new ideas learned in the classroom, where they are exposed to a wide range of experiences from companies both large and small, national and international, service and manufacturing. Business interns are flexible and able to handle a wide variety of tasks. Internships also allow a firm to 'test drive' a potential future employee, without incurring the substantial costs of locating, recruiting and supporting a full-time employee.

Educational institutions benefit by having their students involved in substantive work experience. This complements classroom-based education, and brings alive for students what they have been exposed to in the classroom. Students are able to 'test ride' companies to see exactly where their career interests may (or may not) be. Schools build and enhance relationships with firms who employ graduates.

Students benefit from the opportunity to study and work at the same time. They witness how theory learned in the classroom is applied to real life business situations. They observe the intricate and complex structure of firms. They see first-hand how management operates and responds to competitors, and how firms exploit competitive advantages. All of this takes place in a supportive environment geared towards learning and perhaps future employment.

In terms of securing first-rate employees, firms must confront the 'make vs. buy' decision. They can 'buy' the talent they require to keep the firm competitive by hiring trained and experienced employees. This is an expensive proposition and requires a well-managed human resources department or an experienced recruiting firm. On the other hand, they can 'make' the talent they need through in-house training of university graduates. This approach takes a long time and requires patience.

However, internships allow firms to bridge the gap between 'make vs. buy'. They can see how students operate and gauge their potential as employees, without the substantive commitment required by full-time employment. If the internship is successful and the firm and student find themselves to be compatible, the student can be hired as a full-time employee (with experience!). Alternatively, if the student and the firm are not compatible, both go their separate ways.

For all of these reasons, firms would do well to partner themselves with local business schools and establish internship programmes to work with senior students.

Keith C. 'Carlos' Gutiérrez is Dean of City University in Bratislava. Readers may send their responses and questions to carlosg@cutn.sk

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