TRS.20.025 – The Wired Intern. Can Learning Networks Improve the Effectiveness of Internships?

Route: Towards resilient societies

Cluster question: 050 What is the secret of a resilient society?

Main research question: To what degree and how can learning networks improve the effectiveness of internships to reduce the employability skills gap? Internships have long been key in efforts to prepare students for the labor market. Exposure to the ”real” world of work combined with a master-apprentice arrangement in which a student receives close guidance from an experienced professional, so the reasoning goes, helps students to acquire the competences and skills necessary to bring textbook knowledge to fruition in a job. However, despite their many positive academic outcomes, evidence on internships’ impact on (long-term) employability remains mixed. The effectiveness of the ”classical” internship risks to come further under pressure due to the changing demands of the 21st century workplace, which transcends occupational competences to include, among others, communication, problem-solving, decision-making, and teamwork skills. The proposed project explores to what degree and how a novel arrangement to foster vocational training, the so-called learning network, may avert the widening of this employability skills gap. In a learning network, the dyadic master-apprentice model is replaced by students participating in project based networks composed of multiple teachers, professionals and students from multiple organizations. Network-based inter-professional collaboration is the basis for collective learning of professional practices. Building on theories of social affordances and employability we analyze under which conditions and how such network arrangements may or may not outperform the classical internship in effectively improving employability skills. Drawing on a large consortium in which more than 120 internship institutions, several regional education centers providing vocational training (ROC’s), and Universities of Applied Sciences participate, allows us to implement a quasi-experimental mixed-methods panel design. Incorporating objective labor market data as well as the perspectives of students, teachers and employers will allow identifying which factors impede or boost a vocational arrangements’ effectiveness in reducing the employability skills gap.
Persons involved: Prof. dr. Ton Wilthagen (UVT), Dr. Gonneke Stevens (UU), Dr. Paul Kocken (EUR), Dr. Jelly Zuidersma (Lectoraat Wederkerigheid in Leernetwerken (Hanzehogeschool Groningen/NetwerkZON). De Roc’s het Alfa-college, Drenthe College, Noorderpoort, Roc Menso Alting en Hanzehogeschool Groningen, 120 stage instellingen in diverse sectoren en diverse gemeenten in Noord-Nederland (Drs. Renee Oosterwijk).


classical internships, Learning networks, work, youth

Other organisations

120 stage instellingen in diverse sectoren en diverse gemeenten in Noord-Nederland, De Roc's het Alfa-college, Drenthe College, EUR, Hanze Hogeschool Groningen, NetwerkZON, Noorderpoort, Roc Menso Alting en Hanzehogeschool Groningen, Utrecht University (UU), UVT


Organisation Rijksuniversiteit Groningen (RUG)
Name Prof. dr. Rafael Wittek
Website en Personal website