ESAB Thoughts – Internships at UM: Where we are and what still needs to be done

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29-06-2021

ESAB Thoughts – Internships at UM: Where we are and what still needs to be done

This article is part of a series that elaborates on student perspectives and propositions regarding salient issues at Maastricht University from members of the EDLAB Student Advisory Board. This specific article focuses on the issue of making Internship opportunities more accessible and was written by ESAB members Kornelija Zilionyte, Stefan Holzheuser, Jasper Ringelmann, and Milena Bredelsmann. 

 

Internships stand as an opportunity to practice the knowledge received from the university, and even to prepare for the future career endeavors. They constitute an essential part of the curriculum of any young professional. Sadly, not all students get access to this opportunity.  To begin with different faculties at Maastricht University have each their own internship policy. Positions are often offered only for the specific program. A limited number of the internships offered by specific faculties are announced on the UM Vacancy Board. However, some of the faculties prefer to share such internships only with the students of the specific faculty, or program, which limits the options available to the UM students.  

It is necessary to explain that internships are different from traineeships since the latter is often chosen voluntarily, while internships are part of the academic curriculum in many faculties. Although the difference is important, it is highly unfortunate that many practical opportunities are often generally not accessible to certain students due to a lack of information. To specify, many students do not consider internships as a value added due to their complexity to arrange, or simply as they do not know where to search for such opportunities.  

Several student-led initiatives address this topic. For instance, the well-known ELSA (European Law Students Association) organization has its own internship program known as ‘STEP’ offering various legal internships to law students. Another significant example is a law student-led initiative known as ‘INTERaction’, aiming to connect students worldwide. One of the activities offered by this initiative are legal internships, widely related to human rights. It is important to address that the internship programs offered by such organizations have not been announced on the UM Vacancy Board, which significantly limits the accessibility for other students. Once again, the same issue also appears when internships are only offered within specific programs, while they could be interesting for students from several other programs as well. For instance, law students could potentially qualify for internships concerning public policy, while public policy students could potentially succeed in internships offered by the  international business program.

As a result, to solve the accessibility difficulties of students to those internship opportunities, the UM Vacancy Board could serve as a platform, unifying all relevant initiatives. This would require more flexibility in announcing such options, better communication with the internal and external parties, and revising the existing internship criteria of each faculty. Finally, it would require increased cooperation between faculties while opening doors to students who would like to specialize in familiar, but not necessarily purely program-based fields. 

 

The Situation at UM

The first search result when searching for “Internships Maastricht University” on Google leads straight to the page of the School of Business and Economics (Maastricht University, n.d.-a). On this website, one is directed to the UM Vacancy Board, where there are at the time of writing this, 96 internship opportunity listings. Of those, 67 are only available to  students who study Business and Economics or affiliate programs. The vast majority of internships are located either in Germany (41) or the Netherlands (31). In addition, the language requirements for those internships are dominated by English (43), German (27) and Dutch (17). In terms of education level required, 67 of the internships require a Bachelor degree, 53 require a Master degree and 24 require an Applied Sciences Bachelor. The second result from the Google search in fact does not aim at students at all, but rather serves as a platform for employers to discover what to expect from students from different faculties at Maastricht University (Maastricht University, n.d.-b).

To conclude, all faculties of Maastricht University will transfer one  straight to the UM Vacancy Board when searching for internship opportunities. The opportunities on said Vacancy Board prove helpful to varying degrees, depending on what faculty students are from and what background they have.

 

Student Experiences at UM

In order to create a bigger picture beyond the experiences of the few students working on this report, a short survey was conducted. This survey does not claim to be representative and was aimed to briefly receive more opinions on experiences with internships while studying at UM. 


Of the 29 people who responded to the survey, 11 had done an internship during their time at university and 16 said they had not (two participants did not answer this question). Overall a general willingness to include an internship in their studies is illustrated as 13 of the 16 participants without internship experience plan on doing one in the future.  The main reason for not planning to do an internship is that the process of finding an internship is perceived as rather complicated. Overall, this was mentioned by all respondents as one of the reasons that might prevent students from participating in an internship (see Figure 1). Other reasons given by respondents were: “Very difficult to find a faculty supervisor”; “the curriculum is not flexible enough” and “UM staff made it seem like the worse choice compared to studying abroad and emphasized the difficulty of having to organize everything themselves”. 

 

Another question asked the participants to rate the faculty-specific promotion of internships, the communication of the necessary requirements and the support offered by the faculty in finding an internship. Unfortunately, all three categories were rated below 40 on a scale between 0 (=insufficient) to 100 (=very good). This underlines our experience that UM generally has very few support networks to connect its students with internships and that the process itself is perceived as complicated. Firstly, there is the lack of awareness, which means that some students are not educated about how they can do an internship during their time at UM, and this opportunity generally exists for almost all degree programs. Secondly, the process of finding an internship that also meets faculty-specific requirements is generally perceived as complicated and ultimately discourages students from taking this step. Therefore, measures need to be taken by UM to support students in finding an internship and to make the process easier and more transparent. The last section gives some ideas on what could be done.

 

Proposed Solutions

Ideas from Other Universities

Most universities already have a career service website. Often, links to external job portals or other career advisories are promoted (Universität Konstanz, 2021). Sometimes, specific services are offered on the web appearances of the respective faculties (Universität Bayreuth, 2021). This can also include vacancy boards on which jobs and internships within the university or faculty are published. However, a proper job portal on which several jobs linked to the university can be found is rare. The Technical University of Munich constitutes an example of a university that has its own publicly accessible platform (TU München, 2021). Other universities only grant access to students or staff members (see for example University of Luxembourg, 2021). Ideally, universities publish all jobs which are related to them on a single platform, through which they can be found easily. For instance, Euractiv offers such a platform for all jobs with regard to the European Union (Euractiv, 2021). UM could benefit from incorporating some of these examples. 

 

Ideas from the Students

To develop a solution, we confronted participants with the idea of a UM-wide collaborative platform for internship opportunities. The idea involves expanding sponsorship and connecting students with internships to a UM network, rather than faculty-specific sponsorship. Here, responses were more neutral or supportive. In fact, only 3 participants were opposed. We then asked for ideas on what could enhance UM’s performance in supporting its students in the internship process, the 9 individual responses can be grouped into the following six points: a) make tutors more open to mentoring; b) career guidance more open through more frequent faculty-specific events; c) organize events with companies or institutions that regularly offer internships to students; d) create a portfolio of possible internships with direct contact; e) reduce restrictions; f) increase sponsorship (e.g. compulsory lectures and educating students about the opportunities); g) sponsorship of career days needs to be increased. However, as a first step, a university-wide platform might be the most feasible and effective option to improve internship opportunities at UM.

Information retrieved from

https://www.uni-konstanz.de/en/study/advice-and-services/career-service/tips/job-search/internship-and-job-portals/

https://www.uni-bayreuth.de/en/studies/career_networking/index.html

https://jobportal.community.tum.de/

https://wwwen.uni.lu/fdef/studies2/internships_and_student_counselling/job_and_internship_offers

http://jobs.euractiv.com/

https://www.maastrichtuniversity.nl/about-um/faculties/school-business-and-economics/prospective-students

https://www.maastrichtuniversity.nl/about-um/employability/hire-our-students/internships

About the Authors

Kornelija Zilionyte

LAW


Milena Bredelsmann

SBE


Stefan Holzheuser

SBE


Jasper Ringelmann

FASOS


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