Satisfaction with External Internships: Do Students Acquire the Professional Skills Necessary to Improve their Employability?

Satisfaction with External Internships: Do Students Acquire the Professional Skills Necessary to Improve their Employability?

Miguel-Angel Acedo Ramírez (Economics of Business, University of La Rioja, Logroño, Spain), Esperanza Azcona Ciriza (Economics of Business, University of La Rioja, Logroño, Spain), Consuelo Riaño Gil (Economics of Business, University of La Rioja, Logroño, Spain) and Francisco Javier Ruiz Cabestre (Economics of Business, University of La Rioja, Logroño, Spain)
DOI: 10.4018/IJHCITP.2017010103
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Abstract

This paper evaluates the level of satisfaction of students enrolled in the Degree in Business Administration and Management (DBAM) who have completed external internships and of the companies that have hosted them, with the aim of improving both formal and training components of these internships. The authors' findings reveal potential for improvement in the administrative management of internships, and the existence of a discrepancy between the skills acquired by undergraduates in university lecture halls and the practical skills necessary for the performance of work. There was also found to be limited potential for applying acquired knowledge during the internships. The evidence therefore suggests that the training offered by universities is not always sufficiently geared towards the demands of today's society and labour market. Nevertheless, company internships meet one of its fundamental objectives, in the form of increased employment opportunities, and this is particularly significant given the extremely high youth unemployment rate at the present time.
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1. Introduction

Amongst the changes brought about by the implementation of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) is the possibility of including professional internships within degree programmes, with the aim of improving future graduates’ employment prospects. Many of the degree programmes available compete in their offers of internships with companies or institutions, also known as external internships, since these are frequently the key to employment opportunities (Marhuenda et al., 2010; Freire et al., 2013). Furthermore, these internships complement the student’s training within an environment which is consistent with the daily reality of their future professional field.

External internships enable students to acquire the necessary knowledge and expertise to increase their chances of finding employment and to succeed in the performance of their work. This is beneficial for the students, the community and the economy in general (Yorke, 2004), especially given the bleak outlook of the 53.1% unemployment rate amongst young Spanish people in the 16-24 age group (Ministry of Employment and Social Security, 2015).

This concern over employment has been highlighted in studies such as Martínez (2009), which examines the relationship between the education system and employability, and comes to the conclusion that, in line with the new EHEA, the competences that students acquire through degree programmes must be more closely related to the professional skills that they will use in the business world once they have graduated (March et al., 2006; García and Perez, 2008). It is absolutely imperative, therefore, that there is an alignment of the skills acquired by students through the learning process they undergo at university and the skills that they will put into practice during external internships (Montoro et al., 2012). These professional skills include basic academic competences and skills related to the attitudes and behaviours required by technological and productively demanding societies (Marhuenda et al., 2010; Freire et al., 2013). It has sometimes been claimed that the training offered by universities is not suited to the demands of today's society and labour market (Freire et al., 2013), hence the need for continuous evaluation of the adequacy of the skills included within degree programmes in comparison with those required by the labour market. Recently, the work of Michavila et al. (2016) on employability and employment of Spanish university students shows, among other things, the most demanded professional skills for employment, and those in which universities provide the closest level –and the farthest level– required for employment.

Furthermore, in the field of virtual placements, it is worth noting the Semester of Code programme, which is an initiative arising from the European Project Virtual Alliances for Learning Society - VALS and proposes a framework for the organization and implementation of a virtual internship programmes for students of computer sciences and other related areas from European universities in a global professional context and related to the Open Software (García-Peñalvo et al., 2015 and 2016).

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