The importance of internships and real-world experience in a modern university education
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The importance of internships and real-world experience in a modern university education

The importance of internships and real-world experience in a modern university education

“Be brave. Take risks. Nothing can substitute experience.” – Paulo Coelho

Every one of us has grown into adulthood with the firm belief that “Knowledge is Power”. While this remains undeniably true, no one should underestimate the boundless potential of applicable real-world experience.

Most experts agree that what modern society has come to know as the ‘internship’ derives from the professional apprenticeships with the trade guilds of Europe back between the 11th and 12th centuries. For most of their adolescent life, these apprentices would serve one master, before graduating to journeyman so they could take their trade elsewhere and earn a lot more money.

Between the 1890s and 1920s, the guild system was forced to accommodate for the industrial revolution, as well as a growing education system that was far more structured and formal. It was here that we saw the conception of traditional scientific and lecture-based training, and complex fields such as medicine began to incorporate the practical aspect of the apprenticeship into this innovative training.

“Social work, engineering, teaching and business all embraced the professional ideal,” says University Professor, Sanford Jacoby. He states that this ideal “was a combination of academic and practical knowledge, usually with certification of some sort, internal governance, like a guild, and also an ethos of social responsibility.

“There had always been an apprenticeship in medicine, but now it had become a standard part of education, an internship.”

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The progression of society has moved so fast, even since the 1920s, that we have had to adapt to quench our new-found thirst for knowledge. As the worker’s demand for learning increased, so too did the value of the internship.

“People began using it as a recruiting tool, and that’s what it is now,” says Victoria Davis, internship director at a prestigious US University. She claims that such recruiting tends mostly to happen within the finance, healthcare and entertainment industries, but adds that the internship really reached its height in the 1980s; the decade it was fostered by the professional business school.

According to a university review, by 1993, 93 percent of interns in work-study programmes were offered full-time positions by their employers.

High Fliers Research managing director, Martin Birchall, told The Huffington Post that work experience “is now just as important as a college degree”, after High Fliers 2013 report found that students without work experience stood much less of a chance when it came to securing an employment position.

“New graduates who’ve not had any work experience at all during their studies are increasingly less likely to be offered a good graduate job after university,” says Birchall.

The report, based on a survey of the top 100 graduate employers, found firms to believe that 36 percent of entry-level jobs would be filled by students who already had experience working for the company.

It is for all these reasons and more that students should not underestimate the importance of practical work experience. It has been advised that every student should take up part-time work throughout their studies, however, the best experience is both “relevant” and “applicable” and can also be achieved through a work placement or internship.

Luckily, it is becoming increasingly common for universities and business schools to facilitate ways students can gain work experience with reputable organisations as part of their full-time provisions.

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The University of Auckland’s Business School, for example, at New Zealand’s leading University was ranked 82nd equal in the QS World University Ranking 2015 and their Department of Accounting and Finance is ranked 26th equal in the QS World University Rankings by Subject (2015).

The Business School is in the 1% of Business Schools worldwide to hold Triple Crown accreditation from the leading international bodies: AACSB International, EFMD-EQUIS and AMBA and offers the ideal programme for scholars looking to leave as a business-ready graduate.

Students of Auckland’s Master of International Business have the opportunity gain practical experience in a variety of different industries before completing their degree through the University’s innovative consultancy project.

Students are matched with well-known brands, respected in their relevant industries, such as Fonterra, Villa Maria, Cooks Global Foods Ltd and various entrepreneurial start-ups, and are asked to complete an applied, research-informed consultancy report, based entirely on the needs of the host.

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Master of International Business graduate Margie Baldezamo did an internship with New Zealand’s first and largest pharmaceutical grade dairy manufacturing facility GMP Dairy.  

“I really enjoyed it, I learned so much. They were so generous, sharing their technology, their systems and information about their organisation, and it’s inspired me to work in the food manufacturing industry.”

She says the practically focussed masters has given her “so many new skills” and “so much confidence”.

The Master of International Business internship/consultancy project is an opportunity that greatly enhances future prospects for their career and assists students in their transition into industry.  

Typically, 80 percent of the University of Auckland’s business undergraduates who seek work are employed within 12 months of graduation, with around 26 percent progressing on to further full-time or part-time study. Business Masters graduates are also very well received in the market.

For more information on the University of Auckland’s Master of International Business and the Internship/Consultancy Project check out the website. You can also stay up to date with the University on FacebookYouTube and Twitter.