Company Internships: Filling the Gap Between University Training and Business Reality

Company Internships: Filling the Gap Between University Training and Business Reality

Noelia Araújo Vila (University of Vigo, Spain), Diego R. Toubes (University of Vigo, Spain), Arthur Filipe de Araújo (University of Aveiro, Portugal), and Jose Antonio Fraiz Brea (University of Vigo, Spain)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-4318-4.ch009
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Practical experience has increasingly become an important component of university training. Institutions have made efforts to provide students with the opportunity to experience business reality. To many students, a curricular internship is the first contact with the work market. The present work analyses this discipline in the context of the Master in Tourism Planning and Management of the University of Vigo. The research universe encompasses 182 internships, which took place from 2008 to 2014. Data was collected through structured questionnaires, which aimed to obtain information on the students' specific areas of interest within the tourism industry, their level of satisfaction with the internship program and whether they were hired by the host company afterwards. The findings show that both parts—students and companies—are highly satisfied with the experience in great majority of cases, and that curricular internships have been an indispensable tool for preparing these students to the demanding tourism industry labor market.
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Mastery and competence are key elements for efficient operations in business of any area. Therefore, the development of professional competences, both during students’ academic journeys and through employees’ work activities, is a current topic of interest in industry and academia. Moreover, the constant changes in market dynamics and business practices have led to certain desirable qualities for modern professionals, such as liability, interest, and initiative (Dembovska et al., 2016), which therefore, have become determinant factors of young professionals’ future.

Within the tourism industry, the requirements for workers’ qualification are arguably even higher. Tourism is a labor-intensive activity, which requires a significant amount of qualified workforce, not least because the quality of tourists’ experiences often depends on tourism workers’ performance. Precisely, the competitive advantage in the tourism industry is based on the definition of intellectual capital and its relation to professional skills in tourism (García et al., 2019). In this context, employers often seek tourism professionals who possess certain qualities, including knowledge, skills, abilities, behavioral stereotypes, efforts, and communication skills. Moreover, studies have shown that a destination’s performance is affected by the way tourism companies manage their human resources (Madera et al., 2017), that is, how they deal with recruiting, training, developing, motivating and rewarding their personal (Baum, 2007). Deladem et al. (2019) show in their study that the training and development variables have a strong and positive relationship and are important in the development of training programs to achieve employee efficiency and the creation of human capital in the tourism sector. Naturally, tourism specific education plays a decisive role in qualifying these workers. As observed by Nagarjuna (2016), educational institutions transform people’s lives by allowing them to contribute to society’s wellbeing, as well as with the sustainability of organizations. This is particularly true for tourism specific educations, which is important not only for developing future professionals’ competences and abilities, but also for contributing to the creation of wealth and increasing quality of life, which are desirable outcomes of a well-managed – on the destination level – tourism activity.

Just like market trends, and consequently, the demands of the work market, academic and professional education has also evolved over the decades. One of the most significant recent changes in European higher educational system regards students’ evaluation. Historically students were evaluated exclusively via traditional performance assessment methods, that is, through the comparison between the objectives defined to each discipline and the results they showed in exams and assignments (Smith & Tyler, 1942). Such model presented severe limitations in terms of assessing the actual performance of future professionals, and therefore, needed to be improved. In this context, a more comprehensive and plural method, based on experimental procedures and adapted to different situations (Andrews & Cronbach, 1973), was adopted. This new approach to higher education gave origin to the Bologna Process, which aims to adapt university formation to social demands, as well as to increase the quality and competitiveness of future professionals.

Key Terms in this Chapter

University Institution: Usually comprising a college of liberal arts and sciences and graduate and professional schools and having the authority to confer degrees in various fields of study. A university differs from a college in that it is usually larger, has a broader curriculum, and offers graduate and professional degrees in addition to undergraduate degrees. Although universities did not arise in the West until the Middle Ages in Europe, they existed in some parts of Asia and Africa in ancient times.

Skill: An ability and capacity acquired through deliberate, systematic, and sustained effort to smoothly and adaptively carryout complex activities or job functions involving ideas (cognitive skills), things (technical skills), and/or people (interpersonal skills).

Health and Wellness Tourism: Are among the oldest forms of tourism. Ancient civilisations as far back as 5000-1000 bc practised many of the therapies which are found in spas today (e.g. Ayurveda, Chinese medicine, Thai massage). Greeks introduced water treatments to the Roman Empire and the Romans built some of the first spas in Europe. Hebrews engaged in ritual purification through immersion in the Dead Sea; the Ottoman Empire built Turkish baths; and the first forms of thalassotherapy (visits to sea water resorts) took place in the eighteenth century.

Tourism Planning: Relates to the same basic concepts and approaches as general planning; however, it is adapted to the specific characteristics of the tourism system. A plan can be defined as a set of various decisions for action in the future (Hall, 2000 AU59: The in-text citation "Hall, 2000" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. ). Several authors agree that the most significant feature of any type of planning, including tourism planning, is its orientation towards the future (Hall, 2000 AU60: The in-text citation "Hall, 2000" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. ; Gunn, 2002 AU61: The in-text citation "Gunn, 2002" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. ). According to Inskeep (1991) AU62: The in-text citation "Inskeep (1991)" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. , planning for tourism is a step-by-step process which should be continuous, comprehensive, integrated, and environmental, focusing on achieving sustainable development and community involvement. Gunn (2002) AU63: The in-text citation "Gunn (2002)" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. similarly suggests that tourism planning should be directed towards four main goals: sustainable use of resources, enhanced visitor satisfaction, integration of local community and area and improved economy and business success.

Thermal Establishment: Socio-sanitary establishment that employs mineral-medicinal waters, medical services, and adequate facilities to carry out prescribed treatments and leisure activities. They may or may not have hotel facilities.

Higher Education: Any of various types of education given in postsecondary institutions of learning and usually affording, at the end of a course of study, a named degree, diploma, or certificate of higher studies. Higher-educational institutions include not only universities and colleges but also various professional schools that provide preparation in such fields as law, theology, medicine, business, music, and art. Higher education also includes teacher-training schools, junior colleges, and institutes of technology. The basic entrance requirement for most higher-educational institutions is the completion of secondary education, and the usual entrance age is about 18 years.

Work Plan: A document that systematises of the relevant information for a certain work. It includes methods for interrelating the necessary human, financial, material, and technological resources for a certain task.

Curricular Internship: Process through which students of a certain academic degree employ the knowledge they acquired and the abilities they developed during the course by temporarily working in a real institution.

Work Experience: Is any experience that a person gains while working in a specific field or occupation, but the expression is widely used to mean a type of volunteer work that is commonly intended for young people—often students—to get a feel for professional working environments. The American equivalent term is internship. Though the placements are usually unpaid, travel and food expenses are sometimes covered, and at the end of the appointment, a character reference is usually provided. Trainees usually have the opportunity to network and make contacts among the working personnel, and put themselves forward for forthcoming opportunities for paid work. Many employers in the more sought after professions demand that every new entrant undergo a period of unpaid “work experience” before being able to get paid work.

Competence: A cluster of related abilities, commitments, knowledge, and skills that enable a person (or an organization) to act effectively in a job or situation. Competence indicates sufficiency of knowledge and skills that enable someone to act in a wide variety of situations. Because each level of responsibility has its own requirements, competence can occur in any period of a person's life or at any stage of his or her career.

European Higher Education Area: A set of agreements and common processes subscribed by over 40 countries in Europe (including all European states but Belarus), aiming to standardize the content of university degrees. It was initiated with the Sorbonne Declaration (1998) AU58: The in-text citation "Sorbonne Declaration (1998)" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. and establishes a new structure for Official University Degrees, which allows for increasing employment opportunities of students and graduates, favoring their mobility between European countries.

Bologna Process: A series of ministerial meeting between European countries aiming to ensure comparability in the standards and quality of higher education programs in Europe, and thus, facilitate the mobility of students and professionals throughout the continent. To achieve those goals, the European Higher Education Area was created in 2010.

Official Master: Special degree accredited by ANECA (in Spain) and recognized by the countries that integrate the European Higher Education Area. It gives access to Doctoral studies.

University Degree: The first cycle of official university education. It consists is the general training of the student in one or several disciplines, aiming to prepare them for exercising professional activities.

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