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Internships crucial for networking and jobs

It would be better for students and organisations if internships lasted longer than two months and could be part-time. This was one of the suggestions at Leiden University Meets/Needs Employers on 27 June 2017.

The meeting between representatives from the University, employers and students at Leiden HUBspot was one aspect of the University’s Job Market Preparation project. In this project, the University aims to better equip its students for the modern job market. In ‘inspiration sessions’ those present discussed what the University, students and businesses could mean to each other.

At the meeting, students, staff and employers exchanged knowledge, expectations, best practices and contacts relating to preparing for the job market. The aim was to forge a lasting relationship between the University and employers and to make concrete plans for what to do next.

More initiative

One suggestion was to make it clearer to companies and organisations whom they can contact if they have a project for students. Other ideas were to make internships broader than academic research and to have more guest lectures from businesses at the University. It was also noted that students should take more initiative and make more use of what the University has to offer in this area, and that businesses should involve students in potential internship projects sooner. ‘Be more pro-active and cooperate more closely with each other,’ is how Vice-Rector Hester Bijl summed up what she had heard. The project group will develop the ideas and hold more such meetings, she added.

Internships very important

In the plenary session, Professor of Journalism and New Media Jaap de Jong argued for flexible placements, which he termed a ‘fantastic invention.’ ‘I find internships much more important than most of my colleagues do,’ he said. On an internship, students learn how to apply theoretical knowledge, see what they can achieve in practice with their skills and gain self-confidence by working in a professional environment, De Jong says. Other advantages are that they learn to make decisions, apply for a job and really go for something. And they also build a network. Internships can also be of great benefit to businesses: students bring a breath of fresh air and new knowledge, ask critical questions, are generally productive and discover new talents. 

Dream jobs

It can be difficult for the University if students are offered a job before they have graduated, says De Jong. But ‘dream placements’ (at RTL Nieuws and a startup for Dutch news in China) do sometimes lead to ‘dream jobs.’ Leiden students work at de Volkskrant newspaper, on the Boeken programme at VPRO TV station and investigative show Argos.

Bridge between two worlds

Leiden University’s Bachelor’s programme in International Studies in The Hague has been running a reasonably big project for some time already in which businesses and organisations can use students for research projects, lecturer Dr Sarita Koendjbiharie explained at the meeting. She said that businesses and students find the programme equally worthwhile. For instance, Leiden students researched which values the Netherlands shares with North and South America for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and did market research for Unilever. ‘We really do build a bridge between two worlds,’ says Koendjbiharie.

Top class

Suzanne van der Dunk, Director of Randstad Onderwijs/TOPklas, gave a pitch to convince Leiden University to participate in a programme for students who want to go into teaching but who first want to devote two years to further orientation and development. In TOPklas, Randstad works with KLM, for instance, to teach future teachers to ‘de-escalate’ aggression in class. ‘There is a huge shortage of good, motivated secondary-school teachers. This programme gives qualified teachers an opportunity to continue to learn. This prevents them from giving up,’ says Von der Dunk.

Mentor programme

The Job Market Preparation project group has been active since 2016 and has led to 19 pilots at the University on, for instance, self-reflection and skills that students need when they start work. Teams that focus on the job market are active in various faculties. Career Services is also working on this project along with the alumni office, which has also set up a mentor programme for students.

Text: Janet van Dijk

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