There was a time when internships were simply a way to get school credit or to get paid work experience prior to choosing a career. But it has never been a better time to be an intern. In the past, an intern might have been relegated to making teas and coffees and doing very simple tasks. But times have changed. Although those might still comprise some of an intern's duties, today, many more organisations are actually putting these students to work and offering young people the chance to get hands-on with business-critical work. Further, they are soliciting their opinions to help shape company perspective.
From my perspective, we've seen this progression start in the tech industry. It's no secret that the tech industry has traditionally taken up innovative ideas. Certainly, given the growth of the technology industry in Europe - by 2020 there will 825,000 unfilled digital jobs in Europe - the tech sector is ramping up on recruitment, and consequently offering some of the most compelling internships available.
Some of the larger organisations now offer dedicated internship programmes, where young people not only receive specialised training, they are expected to work on real assignments, collaborating with leaders in the field. This all makes for the kinds of learning experiences that simply cannot be replicated in a classroom in my opinion. In addition, some companies even run social events deigned to let young people network (and maybe have a little fun too!).
And the spots on these internship programmes aren't just for developers or engineers - the tech sector needs talent across all divisions, whether it's in sales, marketing or project management.
I would argue that there is no better way for the tech industry to build a strong talent pipeline than offering internship placements. Just as important as any benefits to the organisation, it helps ensure young talent is making an informed decision for themselves, personally and professionally.
Now, consider the thriving start-up scene in Europe. While many of these smaller organisations don't or can't offer special internship programming, they can provide incredible opportunities for those right at the start of their career to play a part in actually shaping a business's future.
For young people, these hands-on experiences can lead to rewarding, life-long careers. Further, in many countries across Europe, where unemployment rates among young workers still (frustratingly) sit in the double-digits, having this kind of experience - especially in an in-demand sector like technology - can give a young person a real advantage. And keep in mind, these are the people who will run our industry in the future. Why not give them a headstart?
Working in technology, I can speak from first-hand experience about valuable internships are, for both employers and students. I've personally seen many young interns taking part in our Furture Force programme go on to have absolutely brilliant careers in the tech sector. And, many of these same people are pursuing careers right here in the company. In fact, more than 80 percent of our interns become full-time employees.
So if you have a university student in your life, suggest they look carefully at the opportunities that they have to start their career now - while they're still studying or just graduating. It might just set a young life on an exciting new course!