Why We Need to Close the Internship Gap to Increase Graduate Employability

Despite the clear importance of internships as a bridge to employment (NACE, 2023)—affirmed by employers who prioritize relevant industry experience in hiring decisions—the integration of internship experiences into the academic journey has not been optimized enough to meet the demands of both students, who often face barriers to accessing them, and the job market, which is constantly changing.

Our recent report, 'The Internship Equation Report 2024', compiles insights from over 200 global employers to explore the divide in how educators and industry leaders perceive internships. From the rarely-reported perspective of the employer, it identifies strategic steps for all parties to address and minimize this gap to increase graduate employability. These collaborative efforts can improve career readiness and employment prospects, enhance the degree ROI, and better prepare learners for the evolving job market.

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Understanding the Gap Between Internship Participation and Hiring Trends

Stagnant Growth in Internship Participation

Over the past decade, despite the evolving demands of the workforce and the ever-increasing need for practical skills, the rate of internship participation among college students has seen little to no growth. 

According to a 2012 survey by The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), over 55% of the Class of 2012 engaged in an internship or co-op during their academic tenure. Fast forward to 2022, the National Survey of Student Engagement, in collaboration with the Strada Education Foundation, found a slight dip, with only 48% of seniors having participated in an internship.

Underemployment Rates Among Graduates

Simultaneously, the underemployment rate for university graduates remains distressingly high, with more than 50% of graduates finding themselves in jobs that do not fully utilize their skills and education. 

This statistic has barely improved over the years, as evidenced by a comparison of data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in 2012 and a 2024 report from the Strada Institute for the Future of Work and the Burning Glass Institute. Both reports indicate a consistent underemployment rate of over 50% among recent graduates.

The Disconnect between Industry and Academia

As companies struggle to find interns with the necessary technical skills, it's clear that traditional approaches to integrating internships into academic journeys are falling short.

The persistence of these trends—flatlining internship participation, enduring underemployment rates, and unaddressed disparities in access to opportunities—raises a critical question: Is it not time for a systemic overhaul?


Actionable Recommendations to Improve Graduate Employability through Better Provision of Internships by Educators and Employers

In our latest report, we delve into these challenges and offer practical steps for career services and educators, as well as employers, to close the internship gap and boost future job prospects. This knowledge is crucial for tailoring educational offerings to match workforce needs and preparing students for success.

Download The Report Now

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