We recently attended the AGR annual conference which this year focused on 'Delivering world class skills'. This is the biggest and best conference of its kind. Each year the quality of the speakers and exhibition gets better and better and so now over 650 delegates attend. The conference is also used to launch the AGR's summer survey (free to AGR members or £200 to non-members) which provides useful data on graduate recruitment and development.
For me what stood out from this year's survey was how highly employers rated internships amongst today's graduates in terms of valuable experience and also as a pool from which to select high quality graduate employees. When you think about it, this type of experience is better than anything else in providing graduates with an insight into the working world and the means to learn about their own skills and how to develop and apply these; it's genuine experiential learning. This means when they become full time employees, they are better equipped to hit the ground running.
In mainland Europe, secondments are common place and in Germany are a prerequisite for any graduate recruiter. There seems to be a fair selection of internships around in the UK but perhaps they're just not as prolific and well ingrained in our business culture. As the graduate market becomes more and more competitive, I wonder if we'll be seeing more of these as a means of selecting and developing high potential graduates.