Tuesday, June 18, 2024

How Externships Can Help Young People Break Into The Job Market

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There have been a number of TikTok videos made by young adults breaking down in tears over not being able to get a job after graduating from college. Both the parents and graduates are frustrated, angry and feel misled. They spent up to or more than $200k on tuition, room and board and their child is still unemployed, burdened with tuition debt, without much hope.

Nearly 60% of parents are financially supporting their adult kids, ages 18 to 34, according to data from the Pew Research Center.

Fifty-seven percent of young adults also live with their parents or in a parent’s home. The economic challenges posed by high housing costs, inflation and broader economic precariousness have made it difficult for many young people to afford living independently.

The white-collar job market is extremely competitive, as more and more Americans attain college degrees. Employers are requiring unrealistic professional experience for entry-level positions, making it difficult for recent graduates to compete in the job market.

A 2023 college pulse survey by LendEDU found that only less than half of all college graduates are confident about their career prospects after leaving campus.

A report by Intelligent, an online magazine dedicated to student life, revealed that 38% of employers avoid hiring recent college graduates. Around 58% of managers, directors and executives in the United States say this cohort is unprepared for the workforce.

Not Enough Internships To Go Around

One way for college students and recent graduates to gain hands-on work experience has typically been through internships, which help young adults to gain practical exposure and develop skills in a particular field or industry.

However, internships typically require significant effort from companies to manage, which obstructs access to students and career switchers, according to Matt Wilkerson, founder and CEO of Extern, a platform that connects students with externship programs on behalf of Fortune 500 companies and startups.

Many organizations maintain separate processes and systems for managing internship programs, including recruiting, training, tracking progress and providing feedback, handling logistics and providing recommendations.

“These processes are typically manual, time-consuming and repetitive,” Wilkerson said in a Zoom video call. “They create bottlenecks and limit the capacity of companies to take on more interns, ultimately reducing the overall availability of work experience opportunities for students.”

The inefficiencies of this centralized system results in:

  • Limited Access: Only a small fraction of students gain access to internships, leading to inequality in opportunities.
  • High Administrative Burden: Companies spend excessive time and resources managing internships.
  • Geographical Constraints: Internships often require physical presence.

“The market for work experience is fundamentally broken. Internships are great when you can get them, but most college students who want an internship can’t get one. The main reason is a supply issue. Companies don’t offer enough of them. The other underlying reason is that they are too time-consuming for both employers and students. We need a better way for students to explore careers throughout their time in college,” said the Extern founder.

What Is An Externship?

An externship is a more scalable, work-experience model that offers project-based work, in collaboration with companies, nonprofits or government agencies.

While internships are more common and well-established, externships are an emerging trend that is gaining popularity, particularly in fields like STEM, business and design. Gen-Z demand for externships is through the roof with nearly 100,000 applications last year and over 100,000 in 2024 already, according to Extern.

Compared to internships, externships for students are:

  • Shorter In Duration: Because they are not long stints, students can complete several externships as a way to explore multiple careers.
  • More Flexible: Programs are available anytime during the year from anywhere in the world with the ability for students to do work on their own schedule. They are remote and online.
  • External (Not Internal) To A Company’s Human Resources Process: No W-2, 1099 tax form or company onboarding
  • Less pressure: Students are not explicitly penalized if they drop out, cannot finish or fall behind due to life circumstances.

“The result is the ability for students to quickly discover and test career possibilities as well as build experience and confidence to attract future career opportunities.” Wilkerson continued, “Now, do I think externships should replace internships completely? No, internships still have an important place in the market for work experience—higher touch, in person, one-on-one relationships. But forward-thinking employers are starting to think more expansively about what work experience during college can look like in order to reach Gen-Z talent and find the gems who are willing to hustle and prove themselves.”

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