Job training methods vary dramatically in the international community. Some governments play a major role in preparing young adults to launch their careers; for example, offering students the opportunity to attend college at no cost. Others have extensive state-run apprenticeship programs, job corps opportunities and similar, but most rely on partnerships with private industries to teach the skills necessary to join the labour force.
The latest trend has been towards microplacements in the UK.
The Basics of Microplacements
Traditionally, both public and private agencies offer internships, which can be paid or unpaid, depending on the structure of the opportunity and local legal requirements. Students typically apply for positions with a defined start and end date – often between three and six months. Though some companies bring interns in to do basic entry-level work, many programmes are focused on student learning, providing mentors and defined learning objectives, and most interns are selected for positions within their field of study.
Microplacements are similar to internships in that they offer students an opportunity to enter the working world, supported by the parameters of the programme. Students apply for competitive microplacements in a variety of industries, and if selected, they work in the placement for only two to five weeks. Often, they are hired for a specific project, and the length of the project determines the length of the placement. One example of this initiative in a London university was specifically designed to expose law students to career options outside of the legal field.
Microplacements Vs. Internships
Microplacements and internships share many of the same benefits. Students gain real-world work experience, they gain insight into the specific industries and organisations, and they can begin to develop their professional network. However, preliminary results of the microplacement programme indicate that these benefits can be enhanced by shorter placements. Students receive more learning in a condensed time period, and they can participate in a greater variety of microplacements over the course of their schooling. That means wider exposure to other industries and organisations and larger professional networks after graduation.
The argument for microplacements is compelling -- all of the benefits of an internship, multiplied by the number of short-term positions. In addition, shorter assignments could expand the number of opportunities available, allowing more students to participate. As organisations in other regions of the world work to develop and revise internship programmes, some may begin to consider the microplacement model.