Breaking Down the World of Work

In the 21st-century employment market, companies are demanding skills beyond the three R’s – Reading, wRiting, aRithmetic. In fact, an over-reliance on rote learning and classroom instruction has resulted in an enormous ‘skills gap’ across the globe.

“According to the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs report, nearly half the subject knowledge learned during the first year of a four-year technical degree will be outdated by the time a student graduates, with practical skill sets also subject to increasing change and disruption. Recruiters are likely to [shift their focus to] ‘soft skills’…. like risk-taking, fairness, curiosity and problem-solving.”

Trends in graduate recruitment – what to expect in the next 5 years

While foundational skills are critical to impart in the early years of school, the focus of high school and college educators should also be on developing skills such as problem-solving, collaboration, media literacy, communication and critical thinking. These kinds of abilities are often best honed through activities beyond the classroom. By combining fact-based education with real-world experience, an individual’s potential can be unlocked, enabling companies and communities to thrive.

As you embark on your higher education and career journey, there are several ways to gain practical experience. But, before exploring your options, it is important to have clarity on your goals. It could be that you are seeking to practically apply what you have learned in the classroom, join a highly-skilled trade that requires deep technical knowledge or perhaps wish to understand what a professional’s life entails. Irrespective of your objectives, there are several avenues to explore.

Here are the options to consider if you’re looking to gain practical experience:

Internships:

An internship helps you learn the basics of how a particular industry functions and what a specific role within it entails. You can also peek into a company’s culture and glimpse into your career trajectory in the future. Internships are an excellent opportunity to analyse your options and make an informed career decision when pursuing full-time, regular employment. They can be paid or unpaid; if unpaid, a stipend may be offered to cover housing or transportation costs. Internships are usually for short durations, from one to three months.

“Internships are paid or unpaid term-based assignments, ideal for undergraduate and graduate students and young professionals. Sectors in which internships are often offered include banking, consulting, media or technology.”

Leena Pandit, Canadian Education Expert

Externships:

The concept of an externship is most common in the medical, legal or other professional fields, where job shadowing is a key part of early training. Externships are generally unpaid and for briefer periods (one week or ten days). Since externs only observe, they rarely have specific work or projects delegated to them.

“Externships are often the result of partnerships between educational organisations and practice-based environments, which provide experiential learning in a specific field.”

Neema Mehta, Global Organizational Design and Talent Leader

Cooperative education (“Co-op”):

Co-ops are multi-term work programmes built into a university curriculum designed to help students gain hands-on experience in a particular specialisation. Co-ops are common in industries like engineering, healthcare, and business, wherein students study one term, work for the next and continue to alternate this theory-application framework for the duration of their studies. Since the work component is a graduation requirement, students earn credit for their co-op terms. If lucky, they may also be paid.

“Through co-ops, students work a semester at a time and then return to school, where they get course credit for their work. Generally, a co-op-based programme can take five to six years (as opposed to the usual four) to complete undergraduate studies. On the flip side, students in such programmes have great work experience and can command higher pay when they graduate.”

Libby Sartain, Board Director at Manpower Group, Shutterfly, AARP; former CHRO Yahoo Inc. and Southwest Airlines

Apprenticeships:

These are training periods undertaken by those entering a skilled trade such as carpentry, welding or artistry and with tradespersons such as electricians, plumbers and beauticians. Apprenticeships are often part of licensed vocational education and technical training programmes that include classroom instruction and practical application. In many European countries, students enter formal apprenticeship programmes at the age of 18 and train for between one and four years, depending on the level of the programme, the apprentice’s ability and the industry sector. Apprenticeships are paid, but the amount is minimal.

“Apprenticeships are structured, entry-level roles associated with skilled trades, which do not require college but do require training, education, and licensing.”

Libby Sartain, Board Director at Manpower Group, Shutterfly, AARP; former CHRO Yahoo Inc. and Southwest Airlines

“Apprenticeships are a combination of on-the-job and classroom training that results in a trade credential, which proves that you are qualified and certified to work in a skilled trade.”

Leena Pandit, Canadian Education Expert

Fellowships:

Traditionally, ‘fellows’ are highly-trained academics who have distinguished positions within a university setting or are well-regarded experts within an industry. Fellows work on specific projects within an organisation and are often sponsored.

Organisations today offer fellowship programmes focused on intensive professional development in a particular field. For example, The Young India Fellowship (YIF) is a one-year residential, multi-disciplinary postgraduate programme that provides liberal arts education focusing on experiential learning. Indian citizens under the age of 29 with an undergraduate or a postgraduate degree are eligible to apply for this highly selective fellowship.

“Fellowships are usually coveted, prestigious positions associated with extensive training and education.”

Neema Mehta, Global Organizational Design and Talent Leader

Volunteering:

Volunteering with a not-for-profit organisation allows you to gain a deeper understanding of the social, economic, and political factors influencing the world today. As a volunteer, you can get involved with the community and see what it is like to collaborate with a wide variety of stakeholders working together to solve a problem and make an impact. These opportunities also allow you to develop leadership skills and network with professionals in the ecosystem.

“Volunteering is a great way to pursue your interests and hobbies while also using the time to travel within the country or internationally. These experiences will help shape your perspective and enable you to understand yourself better. A volunteer experience can boost your resume and sometimes help you clarify the career path you want to pursue.”

Leena Pandit, Canadian Education Expert

Traineeships:

Engineering, management or sales trainees–these are positions created exclusively to nurture and prepare recent graduates for specific roles within an organisation. Trainees are full-time employees on a regular salary and are hired into a ‘class’ of fresh university graduates for a structured training programme. Depending on the industry, firm and location, trainees frequently compete with their peers for placement into different roles upon completion of the programme.

“Investment banks, consulting firms, consumer goods companies and other large global organisations formally train their new hires so that they all approach delivery of products and services in a uniform and consistent manner that aligns with the organisation’s vision, mission and operating philosophy.”

Neema Mehta, Global Organizational Design and Talent Leader

Work experience:

Work experience involves securing paid employment that may be temporary, contract-based, or long-term. The objective is not necessarily career-development (although it can be). Instead, it is to earn money and gain formal experience in the workforce. Compared to the other opportunities, work experience entails taking on more responsibilities while reporting to supervisors who oversee deadlines, productivity and quality of work. Gaining formal work experience is critical to personal growth–it helps young people learn responsibility and accountability in a setting other than school or home. For students, some options may include working behind the counter at an ice cream shop over the summer, tutoring neighbourhood kids or staffing the desk at a local library.

“Summer or other jobs are structured, part/full-time paid work experiences that pay market rates and are critical to the organisation’s functioning.”

Neema Mehta, Global Organizational Design and Talent Leader

Students, recent graduates and even experienced professionals must access these options at various points in their careers, depending on their goals, financial situations and academic training. If you are still studying, your college or school’s career services office may maintain a list of employers seeking talent at different levels.

Many organisations share information and requirements for talent on their website and social media. However, the best way to find and create opportunities for yourself is to reach out to people you know. Proactively ask friends, classmates, relatives and acquaintances about how to gain practical experience. Once you narrow down your choices, pick the option that suits your experience level and goals and then jump right in to keep learning.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.