When Professional Internships Are a Priority
University internships have become a virtual prerequisite for many students in master programs and postgraduate courses at UPF-IDEC and UPF Barcelona School of Management to strengthen their curricula and gain experience in the job market.
Over the current school year, the Careers Service at UPF-IDEC has arranged over 600 professional internship agreements with companies. A number which continues to grow by roughly 20% each year and will exceed one thousand agreements by the time the school year finishes. More specifically, from October 2013 to today, the department has processed 890 student applications and 779 job offers, even though most companies are just now starting to take on students. The Careers Service works to find the best candidates for each position and vice versa. 'Education in the 21st century isn't just about providing our students the best training and preparation, it's also about turning them into good professionals, and in this regard, internships promote learning by doing and real contact with the professional world', explains the Director General of UPF's Institute of Continuing Education Private Foundation, Carme Martinell.
As a result, curricular internships are now part of the curriculum of numerous master programs and postgraduate courses at Pompeu Fabra, making them mandatory for students. Last year, 36 programs offered their students curricular internships, as well as validation for students already working in the sector. The duration and date on which students start their external internships vary by degree, with the demand increasing each year. In 2013, 256 UPF students took part in this type of internship, 34.7 percent more than the previous year.
Curricular internship at Nestlé
Anna Llombart, a student in the Master Program in Marketing Management at UPF Barcelona School of Management, had no reservations. 'I chose the master program because of the mandatory professional internship; I wanted this opportunity.' Anna is 22 years old, studied Business Administration and Management in Girona and boasts a remarkable curriculum (a 9.55 grade-point average) which earned her a UPF Barcelona School of Management Talent Scholarship and a Recognition Award for best university curriculum from the Association of Economists of Catalonia. The master program and professional experience at a major mass-commodity sector company is just what she was looking for to round off her curriculum. 'I wanted to work at Nestlé, and I did.'
Where there's a will there's a way, thought Anna, which inspired her to approach Nestlé herself and request an internship at the company. The Careers Service arranged the agreement and made it possible. After two months at Nestlé, Anna Llombart considers herself 'blessed'. 'Between the master program and the internship I hardly have time for anything else, but I enjoy what I do, and for the time being that's my priority', she explains. She is now a member of Nestlé's marketing team and handles brand re-launches, promotions, gadgets, social networks and even manages projects. 'They let me do a bit of everything, which enables me to get hands-on experience in everything the master program covers.' As for the future, Anna understands that her professional world revolves around branding. Where is yet to be determined. 'Given the situation here, I wouldn't mind going abroad.'
From Internship to Employment
Joanne Wee Kim is originally from Singapore, though has lived in Barcelona for seven years. She is 42 years old, holds a degree in pharmacy and later specialized in marketing. Her curriculum features 16 years of sales and marketing experience in the healthcare industry. 'I realized the digital world was becoming essential to marketing and decided to do a Master in Direct and Digital Marketing, and as I wasn't working, I applied for a professional internship.' She began her internship at Across Health in January, a consultancy firm specializing in digital marketing and multichannel strategies for the pharmaceutical industry. 'I was very fortunate, because the position was a perfect match for my profile, and it also enabled me to implement the digital channel strategy I learned in the master program.' She had another stroke of luck two months later, when the company's workload grew heavier and they decided to hire her. 'We ended the internship and signed a permanent contract.' Owing to her sector experience, training and knowledge of the company, Across Health did not have to think twice. 'I feel it was the best opportunity UPF Barcelona School of Management could give me, because Across Health was exactly the type of company I was looking for.'
Like Joanne, 562 students took part in company internships last year thanks to the Careers Service at UPF-IDEC, which works with almost 500 collaborating companies. The students applaud its utility, career opportunities and contacts, and 83% would recommend it to classmates. The companies' opinion is also high: 95.7% continued to accept interns after the first year and 97.3% claim that they would consider applications from internship participants when hiring. Many, in fact, do. Maribel Sabariego, Human Resources Manager at Danone, explains that, to them, the purpose of professional internships is to create a pool of prospective employees. 'We just hired a UPF-IDEC intern from the Master Program in Legal Practice to form part of Danone's legal department because a position opened up.' This is no one-off case, claims Sabariego. 'We have been collaborating with UPF-IDEC and UPF Barcelona School of Management for years, taking on students in the Finance, Human Resources, Marketing and Legal Departments, and when a job opportunity comes along, we would rather hire someone who is familiar with our company and, most importantly, shares our values, which is why we find professional internships very useful.'
'Our job is to act as a point of contact between the professional and academic worlds, because that's how we feel future professionals should be trained. In doing so, we help students get a foot in the door of the job market', emphasizes Carme Martinell.
The Careers Service continues to work towards expanding its internship options each year and has already contacted new entities and companies regarding the degrees that will become available next year, both around the country and abroad. At present, the department collaborates with major companies offering internships in foreign countries such as Germany, Switzerland, Holland, the US, Peru and Brazil and is negotiating with companies in Africa and Asia. It also provides students with personalized assistance in terms of job guidance, job hunting and participation in networking events.