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Workforce Readiness

Analysis: Student Supports Enhance Impact of Micro-Internships

A Christensen Institute analysis has examined the value of "micro-internships" and suggested that pairing them with various student support approaches in higher education could make them even more valuable. According to Christensen Director of Education Research Julia Freeland Fisher, the launch of Gigs for Good by Parker Dewey upends the traditional internship model, which she calls "time- and cost-intensive," and replaces it with an approach that makes work experiences easier to find and sign up for (students engage through the company's website).

With Gigs for Good, companies sign up to hire a student to tackle short-term, paid, professional assignments, similar to the ones they'd normally give to new hires or interns. The work typically runs between five and 40 hours and resembles Upwork-style projects: setting up a social media calendar, cleaning up data after a marketing event, creating content for blogging or researching the competition's services. Those can be done on-site or online. The students hired to undertake the project pay 10 percent of the total fee to participate in the internship, with an expectation that they'll earn between $15 and $25 per hour.

As Freeland Fisher explained, the use of the "technological enabler" that Parker Dewey employs "renders its approach potentially disruptive." Projects don't have to rely on "local or regional economies" and the expense of "creating, promoting and sustaining access to work experiences" goes "down as the marketplace grows," which means more employers might be willing to participate. Also, because the work experiences are shorter, students can try more of them, expanding their "social capital" beyond what the typical longer-term internship would provide.

But in the near term, Freeland Fisher suggested, combining micro-internships with student support models such as Beyond 12 or Braven could hold the greatest promise. Beyond 12 matches students with coaches; Braven embeds career education and support into the undergraduate experience for low-income and first-generation college students. That pairing, she wrote, could ensure that students choose those types of projects that will "best fit their skill levels" and make sure they "execute on challenging projects," making those gigs not just good, "but great levers for expanding pathways for opportunity."

The analysis is openly available on the Christensen website.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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