2. Why offer an internship?

People with speech bubbles saying hello in multiple languages

2.1 How are companies positioned that have had positive experiences with internships?

This guide is intended to help entrepreneurs to integrate interns into their work organization, particularly through the blended remote work process. Therefore, we have dealt with the question of possible problems.

How can companies be persuaded to take on interns? What are the fears of companies when dealing with interns?

External experts from the field of IT and open source culture met at the Multiplier Event in the Wildschönau. This gave us the opportunity to clarify these questions with the experts and entrepreneurs in the context of a workshop.

We chose the method "The Six Hats" by Edward de Bono and looked at the risks, problems, skepticism, criticism and fears of IT companies which make the start of a blended remote internship process difficult.

Using Ishikawa's cause-effect diagram method, we mapped out the causes of problems and their interdependencies. We identified the causes based on their probability and urgency. This task was challenging for all participants.

We developed solutions and measures for the problems prioritized beforehand. The problems, which were outlined in the document, are briefly summarized in the following.

  • Priority 1: There is no general obligation for IT companies to offer internships to young people for career orientation. There is also no reward in the IT sector for taking on interns or apprentices as there is in other sectors. One measure, for example, would be that vocational orientation/training companies are given preference in public tenders. The group found that the solution is beyond our control and also beyond the scope of the Erasmus Plus project. However, it should at least be mentioned.
  • Priority 2: The personnel effort for supervision is very high in the blended remote internship. Many good solutions and suggestions were found in the group for this problem, which we will elaborate on our guide.
  • Priority 3:  There are concerns about what tasks can be expected of interns. There were discussions about how and at what level requirements can be placed on interns. The discussions led us to the realization that the term internship is too broad in the minds of entrepreneurs and HR managers. Often, an internship intended for career orientation is mixed up with those for work experience or career deepening, although the requirements and expectations with career-orientating young people are completely different than with an experience or deepening internship.

2.2 What types of internships are there?

There are several ways to differentiate between types of internships:

  • On the one hand, internships can be discerned according to the modality - online, hybrid (blended), face-to-face.
  • Furthermore, if you can look at the trainees level of training, the internship serves as a career orientation or to deepen content that has already been learned in school or studies.
  • In addition, you can make a distinction between compulsory and voluntary internships. A type of internship that is becoming more and more popular is the internship abroad, here too you can find all modalities, as internships for professional orientation are also becoming increasingly popular abroad.

Until before the COVID-19 pandemic, the only known form of internship for many companies and training companies was physically in the office. The usual length of the internship ranges from 3 weeks to a maximum of 6 months. More and more companies are now offering internships with a hybrid model. Unfortunately, there is still not very much empirical data on the efficiency and benefits of this type of internship.

However, since increasing digitization and teleworking will remain a component of our work culture, even without COVID-19, it is certain that internships can be offered in various modalities in the future. In the case of internships that are to take place abroad, where one of the learning objectives is also intercultural competence, it can be assumed that many things cannot be conveyed in a purely online model.

Unfortunately, there is not yet a great deal of experience and only very few empirical research results on the efficiency and benefits of this type of internship. One of the few exceptions: SKELTON, DAVID. "Blended learning and supervision of distance internship and project students." New Zealand Association for Cooperative Education 2013 Conference Proceedings. 2014

2.3 Why it is so important to offer internships

Computer science is a novel discipline that is subject to very rapid change. What is the latest state of the art today will be long out-dated tomorrow.

The working world, processes and approaches to software development are constantly changing. There are now many educational institutions that specialise in the needs of training future computer scientists. However, it can be seen that from the creation of the curriculum to the actual teaching, it is not possible to keep up with this rapid change.

For the majority of the people, computer science is a closed book that they not only cannot understand but also often do not want to understand.

In addition, the cliché of the computer scientist as a oftentimes male introvert sitting in the basement, a "nerd", is also a deterrent for many, especially female, career starters.

Even though some computer scientists like to intentionally convey this "cherished" image, it does not correspond to reality. Especially in the open source communities cooperation, togetherness and communication are a must in the production of software.

All this communicates to the outside world is a distorted and incomprehensible image of the different professions involved in software production.

This is exactly why it is so important that communities and IT companies open their doors and offer young people the opportunity to gain impressions in the real world of IT.

If I am someone who is still on the way to finding my own career ideas, then an internship is always a great opportunity to move forward in the process of career orientation. Because in order to find out who I actually am and what I want to do and what my professional ideas are, learning at school is not enough. I also have to learn in other fields of life.”

- Bernd Gössling

Many young people have little practical experience with or understanding of it, as they often only hear about their parents' professions from stories. They can hardly imagine anything about them. Young people need internships for career orientation and understanding of professional practice. Therefore, it is advisable to let trainees participate. This can happen in the form of own projects or by supporting existing teams. Independent work is encouraged and teamwork is learned. Content-related work comes first. This is easy in the remote internship, as the typical "intern tasks" such as making coffee and copying are not required here.

2.4 ITOnboard Expert Interviews

Fred Van Dijk

Interview with Fred Van Dijk during the ITONBOARD multiplier event at Schatzbergalm, Austria

Paul Roeland

Interview with Paul Roeland during the ITONBOARD multiplier event at Schatzbergalm, Austria