SkillsAct4Vet – Training

Module 2 - During the mobility

Unit 2: Main characteristic of a short-term internship abroad for students aged 14-18

Internship abroad: main characteristics

A short-term internship abroad for VET students is usually a granted training experience.

Erasmus+ KA1 are the most known and common projects od this kind. 

A short-term mobility may last from 2 weeks up to 3 months.

The most common duration is 4-5 weeks.

While preparing the following module, we referred to mobilities lasting from 3 to 5 weeks.

The internship abroad may take place during all the year, depending on internal school organization.

Note:

Work internships abroad are usually granted. The grant covers all the costs related to students’ maintenance abroad, travel and insurance.

It is important to stress that the opportunity is open to all the students, besides any social or economic circumstance.

Roles involved

Sending organization:

Usually, a VET school (or a different organization involved in training and education, such as municipalities, chambers of commerce, employment centers, etc) is the sending organization, responsible for the selection and preparation of students before the departure.

The sending organization is also responsible for choosing the accompanying staff for the students during their experience abroad.

The persons involved within the sending organization are usually:

  • the Erasmus project coordinator
  • teachers
  • the director of the center
  • psychologistpsychologist or career orientator, if anys or career orientator if any

Note:

The teachers involved in the process are usually language teachers or vocational teachers in the field addressed by the project.

For instance, if the project is about digital technology for restaurants, the teachers involved should be of graphic design or photography, rather than gastronomy or biology.

However, this is not compulsory and depends on each school and project.

The sending organization is responsible for establishing any partnership needed to develop the mobility (with host companies or intermediate organization abroad).

Participants:

The students selected by the sending organization take part in the mobility abroad.

Each selected student commits to respect general rules of behavior and to complete the internship abroad, according to the objectives established in the “Learning Agreement”.

Note: the Learning Agreement is an official document describing the content of a specific mobility, and it has a form of a contract between the sending institution, the receiving institution and the learners. In this step, the two institutions agree on what the student(s) will learn abroad and how these learning outcomes will be integrated into the learners’ qualifications. Basically, they agree upon the learning outcomes that the learner will achieve during the mobility.

Receiving organization:

The host company where the participant will do his/her internship is the receiving organization.

Any company can potentially host interns from abroad (private, public, ONGs, public bodies, etc).

The roles involved within the sending organization are usually:

  • Tutor: the person who accompanies the students during the internship, assigns tasks, monitors and evaluates the work experience. The tutor is the person with whom the intern spends most of the time at the work placement.
  • HR or General Manager: the person who organizes the internship before the arrival of the student. He/she is responsible for the selection of the intern, defining the department, assigning general tasks and the tutor..
  • CEO, owner or legal representative: depending on the size and type of the company, the legal representative can assume different roles. In the frame of short-term mobility, usually the legal representative is not directly involved in the organization of every single internship, although he/she must formally accept it, signing a general agreement to receive international students in the organization.
    Note: the roles mentioned above can be carried out by the same person, according to the size of the company.

Intermediate Organization:

Most of the successful learning activities related to the mobility are managed by the intermediate organization, which operates as an expert in work placement and a service provider. The intermediate organization provides a link between the sending organization and host companies. It is responsible for matching the participants with the right host companies  (according to their CVs), preparing all the documents required for the internship and assisting the sending organization in every step of the mobility.

Also, one of its main roles is to contribute to students’ adaptation and soft skills activation in the transnational context.

The staff involved within the intermediate organization are:

  • Work Placement Officer: in charge of finding the most suitable work placement for each participant, preceeded by a careful analysis of training needs. He/she identifies the tasks to be performed during the internship, in collaboration with the host company’s responsible, taking into account the student’s profile and the project objectives.
  • Training Tutor: oversees the general mobility experience through regular meetings with the participants, visits at their workplace and collecting tutor’s feedback. Closely cooperates with the Work Placement Officer.

Identification of the tasks challenges:

The right identification of the tasks to assign to foreign interns is a key step to guarantee the expected learning outcomes. Even though it involves several professionals, it also implies a number of challenges.

  • Short duration: a short-term internship, by definition, has a limited duration.

For the students it is usually the first work experience in a host company and, very often, the first experience abroad. That is why the induction period may take more than a half of the duration of the whole experience (2 weeks).

  • Language skills: students are not always proficient in the host country language, while that is usually the language to be used during the internship. This implies, in given professional contexts, that some tasks cannot be performed directly by the interns (for instance, at a hotel or museum reception a student who is not proficient in the local language cannot attend visitors who only speak this language).
  • Unexpected work demand: the host company may face an unexpectedly high or low demand for its services, which may be reflected in a higher or lower level of empowerment for the intern.
  • frustration while performing the tasks. Expectations: the intern might have different expectations about the tasks entrusted during the internship. If the expectations are based on previous experiences in the home country, the tasks carried out abroad, if they do not require a lot of responsibility, may be considered easier. It is common at the beginning of the work experience, during the induction days. On the other hand, participants may consider the tasks more difficult (because of the different context) although they are the same as already performed in the past. In this case, expectation is strongly related to the student’s awareness: the experience abroad may result more demanding than expected, and the participant may experiment unexpected frustration while performing the tasks.