Naquita Lewis, the UK National Agency Erasmus+ Higher Education lead, looks at why high-quality student traineeships are important and highlights some useful resources to help manage them successfully.
Erasmus+ traineeships can be a life-changing experience, giving higher education students the opportunity to develop practical and professional skills that will enhance their employability. In order to get the most out of the experience, traineeships need to be of high quality, for the benefit of not only the student, but also the employer and the higher education provider.
Recognition of the traineeship
Students should have good working conditions and gain an understanding of the professional workplace and work practices of the host country. Ideally, the placement should be recognised by the student’s higher education provider upon their successful completion or attainment of the learning outcomes, as identified in their Learning Agreement for Traineeships. Traineeships should also benefit the employers hosting the students, by enabling them to tap into new skills and knowledge and providing their staff with the chance to develop their mentoring and supervisory skills.
What makes a high-quality traineeship
Discussions on what makes a quality traineeship are not new. In 2011, the European Youth Forum produced the European Quality Charter on Internships and Apprenticeships, aimed at work placements and apprenticeships that are part of a formal education process. It revolves around three key elements: learning content, rights and remuneration.
In recognition of the importance of providing high-quality traineeships, the European Commission also developed the Quality Framework for Traineeships in 2014, which recommends 22 quality elements for traineeships to support the improvement of working conditions and the learning content of traineeships.
Strategic Partnership projects resources
Despite the Quality Charter and Quality Framework being in place for a number of years, many are still experiencing issues with the quality of internships in practice. To address this, a number of Erasmus+ Strategic Partnership projects have used funding to research and develop different resources to improve the quality of traineeships:
(Please note that the UK National Agency is not the author of these resources and cannot be held responsible for the accuracy of the guidance within them.)
1. Supporting student and graduate transition from education to the labour market was the aim of the 'Collective Awareness Platforms for Quality Internships' (CAPQI) project. The project looked at creating transparency on the internship programmes of employers in Europe and provided tools to empower intermediaries in the quality check of the internships. A number of resources can be found on the CAPQI project website, including:
- A best practices book on definition and harmonisation of quality internship standards;
- A guide for implementation process of quality internships for employers.
2. Entrepreneurial Scotland (the Saltire Foundation) was a UK partner in a project, which brought together universities, intermediary organisations and NGOs to share ideas and good practices through an exchange network.
Entitled 'Gradual: increasing students and graduates employment readiness', the project aimed to improve the quality of internship schemes by producing various resources, including 'Guidelines on Establishing and Effectively Running Student/Graduate Internship Programmes'.
You can find a full project summary and useful resources on their project page on the Erasmus+ Project Results Platform.
3. Smart Practice was a project that aimed to improve students’ entrepreneurial skills, through empowering higher education providers to work closer with businesses. The project created an innovative methodological approach to student internships, which was tested in four countries. A number of useful outputs can be found on their project page on the Erasmus+ Project Results Platform, including:
- An analysis of good practices on innovative approaches to internships;
- A handbook providing guidance on the planning, execution and evaluation of SMART internships; and
- A methodology on developing and integrating innovative SMART internships.
4. SPRINT is a three year strategic partnership project looking to improve young people’s integration into the labour market by creating a practical quality standard for internships. This ongoing project is creating a standard and a self-assessment tool that defines a quality internship and the learning outcomes it brings, with an emphasis on international traineeship students. So far the project has carried out research including:
- A general report on internship legislation in the European Union and Switzerland;
- A survey on needs and barriers of stakeholders in implementing quality internships; and
- An analysis of best practices on quality internships.
In 2018, the Croatian Erasmus+ National Agency ran a Transnational Cooperation Activity (TCA) entitled ‘Connecting Higher Education Institutions and Business Community: Increasing the Quality of Erasmus+ Traineeships’. This two-day event brought together higher education providers from across Europe to share good practice and produced a number of helpful presentations and workshops which you can access on Google Drive, provided by the Croatian National Agency.