UW–Madison researchers expose barriers to quality internships for college students

In a recent article they wrote for The Conversation, UW–Madison’s Matthew Hora and Hee Song discuss the difficulties that students face in securing quality internships.

Hora and Song

Hora is an associate professor of adult and higher education with the Division of Continuing Studies and with the School of Education’s Department of Educational Policy Studies. He is also co-director of UW–Madison’s Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions (CCWT). Hong is a project assistant with CCWT and a PhD student in the Department of Educational Policy Studies.

In their article, Hora and Song note that while internships are vital for students entering the workforce, they are not always accessible or high quality. One challenge they highlight is a lack of paid internships: “Only two out of three internships offer compensation for students at four-year colleges,” they write. “The situation is worse for students at two-year institutions, where 50 percent of internships are unpaid.”

In addition, discrimination and structural forces continues to impact access and outcomes, and internships vary significantly in quality.

What defines “quality,” they write, is subjective and depends on a student’s goals. However, common indicators include a “learning plan for student interns, on-the-job tasks that involve high-level skills and autonomous work, and supportive supervisors.”

The pair’s insights are based on findings from the 2023 National Survey of College Internships, which used a survey developed by CCWT and administered in partnership with Strada Education Network. This survey of a nationally representative sample of over 4,000 two- and four-year college students examined the reasons students seek internships, common barriers they face, and the overall quality of their experiences.

To learn more, read the full article in The Conversation.

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