It used to be that students who went to university had a great chance of getting a job. A post-secondary degree was a ticket to vast employment prospects. Now, as we all know, there is a lot more involved.
Whether it is having the right connections, doing some creative networking, or gaining the vast experience needed to break into the job market of choice, these days the career search is much more complicated.
One of the ways to possibly obtain all these benefits is through an internship position related to your field of study. It is next to impossible for many graduates these days, like those in journalism or engineering, to get a job they want without prior hands-on knowledge.
And companies know students need experience in order to successfully break into the job market once they graduate therefore, it is a perfect opportunity to take advantage of the free labour pool that's out there.
The problem is, experience obtained by students lucky enough to get an internship position, often times isn't all that great. That is, unless you call doing someone else's filing or being the office "bitch" beneficial work experience.
And there is no guarantee for students that they will actually obtain a permanent job at the company they intern for, once the internship period is over.
Also, for a student to work for free, when many students already carry heavy debt loads, is often too much of a sacrifice or is simply not feasible when there are bills to be paid especially when many students must also incur the travel and living expenses required if their internship happens to be out of town.
If internships were a part of every student's course calendar, the situation wouldn't be so bleak. By giving students credits for working, schools would be adding an additional educational component in their programs and companies may be more willing to take on students, without the worry of payment.
University departments should attempt to develop more courses that have a hands-on focus. Students studying all majors could benefit from course credit in a related workplace, that doesn't involve serving fries, as so many summer jobs do. These course credits could be obtained over the summer months or during the regular school year.
But in order for this to work, universities also need to strengthen more ties with companies to develop the internship programs. It is the way of the future, and for this generation, practical experience is the difference between a marketable résumé and a glorified birdcage liner.