A computer sciences student at the University of Kent has just scooped Intern of the Year award and perhaps more valuable, a head start in securing a job on graduation.
David Couch who spent a year with chip manufacturer Intel expected internship to be worthy but not too exciting.
"I thought I was going to be spending every day in the office, but as part of my internship I travelled extensively and ended up running projects for Intel, which was fantastic."
Couch reckons internship was the highlight of his computer science degree course, where everything learnt could be put into practice in a real life situation. "I had very little idea what I wanted to do with my degree in computer science when I graduated, but doing this internship has shown me the career possibilities that are out there. And I feel much more confident about my employment prospects when I finish my degree."
Real way to gain skills
His enthusiasm is backed up by hard facts and employer feedback, confirms Bob Clift, head of the ITMB programme at e-skills, the Government agency for the ICT sector. "More employers are looking for more than just academic achievement in graduates. They want candidates who are motivated, mature and have experience of the workplace. A placement is the ideal way to gain that experience and acquire some of the business and interpersonal skills that employers so value when recruiting."
Employers have reported that the confidence gained by IT students on placements makes a huge difference to their performance in the recruitment process. Also invaluable is the practical application of skills and techniques that are difficult to teach outside the workplace. Not only this, but there is also evidence to suggest that doing a placement can boost a student’s final result by as much as a grade, reports Clift.
More internships available
It’s not too late for ICT graduates in the 2010 cohort, who did not experience internship as part of their degree, to become interns after graduation in order to boost their job prospects. Happily, there are many unfilled opportunities for work experience: despite the availability of placements, a dwindling number of students have been taking up these opportunities. In 1998, 30 per cent of IT graduates took a placement compared to just 20% five years ago.
The Government is working to reverse this trend and aims to lift the participation rate to 50 per cent of students in the UK within five years. Its strategy is to encourage ICT employers of all shapes and sizes to offer work experience placements to graduates while e-skills has developed its own internship in conjunction with universities and employers. On completion of an e-skills internship, students receive a certificate, which is nationally recognised by employers.