The role of internships and experiential learning in closing the skills gap
Experiential learning integrates knowledge and skills through internships, work-study, and courses, providing practical solutions to bridge the skills gap.
What is experiential learning?
Experiential learning is an education theory on how humans learn best. It has been continually gaining popularity since its development in the 1970s, and for a good reason. The experiential learning process focuses on four phases; experiencing, reflecting, thinking, and acting, which in turn, leads to further experiencing. This learning model is beneficial because students can gain knowledge and practical skills simultaneously. The skills gap in today’s job market prevents recent graduates from meeting entry-level job requirements. This clearly indicates that higher education institutions aren’t focusing on teaching skills enough.
Experiential learning in higher education
As a student, it’s important to outsource your learning experiences and not rely solely on the academic curriculum. A study shows that graduates from International Development Studies in Canada perceived experiential learning as beneficial in developing new skill sets and networking with potential employers. A form of experiential education already being implemented and positively impacting students’ preparation for building career paths, are internships. Learning about your field from a book can only take you so far in any given profession. Real-world experience is where students put into practice everything they have learned in class. While it’s possible to wait until your first full-time job to do so, internships and experiential learning are by far better options for students. They provide an environment where mistakes are permitted and even encouraged. They are also more lenient and flexible with students because internships allow students to test themselves in their field of interest. As well as prepare them for when the stakes are higher.
Internships are also one of the best ways to tackle the skills gap problem current students and recent graduates face. Employers struggle to find applicants with the right mix of skills, even amongst those with higher education degrees. As a student, you can stand out by finding opportunities to develop skills that can’t be learned in a classroom. When we talk about the right combination of skills, we talk about specialized and human skills. The specialized skills each industry demands vary, but human skills generally include cognitive, social, creative, and emotional skills that help people perform at every level. No matter what career path you choose, experiential learning in your chosen field will help you gain specialized skills and fine-tune human skills.
Recommendations for students
Colleges and university students looking to improve their skills have several options.
- Internships - most schools have offices dedicated to helping students find the right internship. Use the resources you have at hand.
- Work-study opportunities - this is a great way to complement your academic studies because employers involved in work-study programs don’t expect long-term commitments.
- Complementary courses - there are many online courses that can help you specialize in what you want to do. If you are unsure what courses to take, check out 1Mentor, where you get personalized recommendations to help you gain the necessary skills to build your career path.
The LEGO Group and the Lego Foundation are implementing programs designed for children based on experiential learning. These programs aim to close the skills gap through experiential learning. Learning through play helps children develop essential skills currently needed across all industries. These types of initiatives are helping prepare children for an uncertain future. However, there are also options for young adults either getting ready to enter the workforce or already trying to do so. At 1Mentor, students can identify the skills they need to gain to get hired. It is almost impossible for a single person to keep up with the industry’s ever-changing demands; however, AI technology can make it possible for students to identify skills, knowledge, and tools that will fully prepare them.