On the Importance of Linking Internships With Employability

Career Integration: Reviewing the Impact of Experience Abroad on Employment (No.2), by the University of Minnesota Learning Abroad Center & CAPA. See this volume – and No. 1 (2014) – at Publications || || Learning Abroad Center.  The two volumes are outcomes of conferences held in 2014 and 2016 bringing together several hundred senior international officers, employers, recruiters, faculty, and education abroad and career service staff.

I regret that the title refers to “employment;” the research in the field, both within the US (note the recent IIE survey published in 2017) and internationally, reports how the accrual of essential skills and competencies through education abroad contributes to student employability  – not their actual success in becoming employed (this is a data point, of course, of interest to career service offices).

These two volumtes present brief essays focused on the changing narrative around the value-added of international experience. This more inclusive framework includes the impact of such experience on student employability (not necessarily on “employment,” which is somewhat mis-leading in the title of both volumes).  All authors come to the same conclusion:  an education abroad experience, purposefully designed to maximize critical learning outcomes, which focuses on the need for students to strengthen essential qualitative and quantitative skill sets, provides an unparalled opportunity to strengthen student employability upon graduation.

Taken together, the two volumes offer important perspectives on how education abroad impacts student employability. While there may be some in our field who deplore this linkage, mistakenly thinking it is about the “vocationalization” of the collegiate experience, I have advocated, for over a decade, that assisting students in understanding how their international experience supports and strengthens their employability is the right thing to do.  It is, in fact, a moral imperative for campuses committed to internationalization.

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