EUROPE: More and better quality internships needed

Internships as part of education courses are increasingly seen as the key to better integration of young people into the labour market. The transition from full-time education to jobs is taking longer and becoming more difficult for young people.

Lack of relevant skills is thought to be one of the main reasons why young people are not selected for the jobs they apply for.

Introducing more good quality internships into higher educational curricula would certainly allow young people to get the on-the-job training and experience that would help them when looking for jobs after graduating.

However, to ensure that training is successful, internships need to be primarily a learning experience that helps young people to acquire practical experience and add practical skills to the knowledge and qualifications that they have acquired through either formal or non-formal education. They should never replace paid work.

Internships as part of higher education should include:

* A written and legally binding contract between the educational institution, intern and hosting organisation outlining the main principles of the internship, including how many credit points will be contributed to the diploma of the intern and a description of learning objectives and tasks.
* A description of the length and tasks of the internship, which corresponds to specified learning objectives that are shared with the student at the beginning of his or her internship.
* Guidance throughout the internship period by a supervisor(s) or mentor(s) trained specifically for the role.
* The right of the intern to receive reimbursement of costs incurred during the internship or the right to receive food, housing and public transportation tickets instead.
* Decent remuneration for work carried out additional to the requirements outlined in the internship contract, including pay for overtime.
* Clear evaluation criteria of the internship period.

These criteria have been outlined by a group of experts led by the European Youth Forum, who are looking to draft a European Quality Charter on Internships and Apprenticeships that will eventually set Europe-wide quality standards for on-the-job training for young people.

The main reasons for this initiative are an increasing number of reports from interns about the lack of educational quality in their internships and mounting evidence that internships outside formal education are frequently replacing quality employment for young people.

A public consultation has been launched by the European Youth Forum and is open till 30 June 2011, to collect further ideas on how to improve these criteria to make them as universal as possible.

Alongside the drafting of the European Quality Charter on Internships and Apprenticeships, the European Youth Forum has launched a major campaign to map the situation of young interns, past and present, in Europe. The aim is to identify the scope of the problem.

* For more information on the European Youth Forum and to complete the Interns Revealed survey go to: and