Internships and Work-Based Learning
What Is An Internship?
The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) defines an internship as “a form of experiential learning that integrates knowledge and theory learned in the classroom with practical application and skills development in a professional setting. Internships give students the opportunity to gain valuable applied experience and make connections in professional fields they are considering for career paths; and give employers the opportunity to guide and evaluate talent.”
Focus on Quality
A quality internship or work-based learning program challenges organizations to develop these opportunities as genuine learning experiences; and challenges students to apply their classroom knowledge to work-based tasks. Ideally, the organization benefits from the intern’s work and the ability to identify talent, while the student benefits from professional development and/or compensation and class credit.
According to NACE, the following key features must be met to ensure the intern experience is educational:
- The experience must be an extension of the classroom: a learning experience that provides for applying the knowledge gained in the classroom. It must not be simply to advance the operations of the employer or be the work that a regular employee would routinely perform.
- The skills or knowledge learned must be transferable to other employment settings.
- The experience has a defined beginning and end and a job description with desired qualifications.
- Learning objectives/goals are clearly defined and related to the professional goals of the student’s academic coursework.
- Supervision is provided by a professional with expertise and educational and/or professional background in the field of the experience.
- Routine feedback is provided by the experienced supervisor.
- Resources, equipment, and facilities are provided by the host employer that supports learning objectives/goals.
“Experiential Learning” is a term commonly used to broadly describe learning opportunities presented through experiences. NACE defines experiential learning as “a crucial component of a college education. Experiential learning encompasses a wide variety of enriching opportunities for students, including service-learning, volunteering, student organization leadership and campus involvement, faculty-led research and projects, experiential study-abroad, student employment/work-study, cooperative education, and internships.”
More recently, entrepreneurship has become a viable experiential learning option to promote student growth and development in business creation and innovation. Due to the broad nature of the term experiential learning, this toolkit instead utilizes the terms “internship” and “work-based learning” throughout.
Types of Internship and Work-Based Learning Opportunities
During the early stages of exploring how to build a program, a review of the variety of internship and work-based learning structures is vital in order to select the type of program(s) that will best fit the organization. The types of internship and work-based learning opportunities are:
- Traditional Opportunities
- Flexible Opportunities
- Project-Based Opportunities
- Remote Opportunities
- Cooperative Experiences
- Professional Development Opportunities