Interning on Your Gap Year

Attitudes to the gap year are changing. No longer seen simply as a break from education or a chance to exercise one's travel bug, a gap year now represents the opportunity for students to gain valuable skills and experiences that will put them ahead in life.

2012 is not a great time to be leaving education. Whether you are an 18-year-old school leaver or graduate, increased tuition fees and competition for jobs has made the world beyond school a fairly bleak and daunting prospect. The latest jobless figures showed that the number of unemployed 16 to 24-year-olds is the highest it has been for a decade, breaking the one-million barrier according to the Office for National Statistics.

All are agreed that an excellent academic record is no longer enough to guarantee your child work in their chosen field. Employers are now looking for relevant work place skills, knowledge and passion for the vocation to differentiate candidates.  With so many job applicants offering identikit grades competing for an ever shrinking pool of jobs the emphasis is now firmly on the ‘super-curricular' experience - something which a structured gap year offers on a plate!

The skills gained on a well-structured gap year are much in demand from employers as they ensure individuals are ready for the ‘world of work' and hit the ground running. These include fundraising, working in teams, risk management, thinking under pressure and the international perspective gained by working in another culture. But perhaps the greatest benefit is the increase in confidence that comes from tackling a major challenge and succeeding. City firms such as Deloittes and Slaughter & May welcome applications from graduates who have a wide range of experiences, including a productive gap year or summer internship.

Overseas internships of all lengths are offered by a number of gap year companies, including The Leap. They match students to specific career-focused work placements where they gain hands-on training in areas as wide ranging as the media, teaching, law, health care, tourism and business. Internships in the developing world can be easier to organise than at home and ultimately more rewarding in terms of the variety of tasks and level of responsibility interns are given.

Interning on a gap year

From taking blood samples and delivering babies on medical placements to getting newspaper articles published and presenting radio shows with journalism placements; a gap internship offers scope for inexperienced students to gain real experience of work in that field rather than simply observing. The benefits for your child don't just stop at an enhanced CV, but also a unique insight into the realities of a job and the ability to make informed decisions about a future career or university course choice before committing to the expense of years of further education.

And for those worried that a structured gap year means all work and no play, bare in mind that these placements last an average of six weeks with fantastic travel opportunities before, during and after the internship. Some internships place interns in teams for great support and social life and even offer an optional add-on month of community and conservation volunteering. There are also summer options, fitting into the three month holiday period between school and university for those not able to commit to a full gap year.

Whatever you decide to do, interning on a gap year can be a huge benefit - just see for yourself!

Alice BainesAbout the Author: Alice Baines

Alice works for The Leap, a volunteering and eco-tourism company. This is what they've got to say about her:

"One of our first ever 'Leapers', Alice now works with us in Marlborough as our overseas placement manager. Having spent her first gap year working in a Kenyan safari camp and her second 'shaking her jungle coconuts' on a team placement in Ecuador, she would love nothing more than for life to be one long gap year! If unsure where to go, what to do or what to take... this is your girl."