In Latin America, most of the school system is disconnected from the professional world, according to Jürgen Weller, a researcher at the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC). The education system in the region has a limited ability to adapt to the needs of companies, leading many students to end their studies without the preparation and skills required by their professional field.
One out of every five young Latin American is jobless according to figures from the International Labor Organization (ILO). This is not an employment shortage issue since half of the Latin American companies have problems finding the talent that they need, according to the ManpowerGroup Talent Shortage research. While we wait for the rusted politics of Latin America to slowly fix this issue, many companies developed their own internship programs to build their own bridge between education and work
Why internships work
Internships increase productivity, promote innovation, are relevant to the supply and demand for skills, and offer an opportunity for professional development for young people, according to the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB). The IADB reported, after comparing data from the World Bank and the ILO, that in countries where there are more apprentices/interns per one thousand workers, there is a higher probability for young people to easily find a job. In Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, the youth unemployment rate remained low despite the 2008 subprimes crisis.
For companies, internship programs are a valuable resource to discover new talents. According to a survey prepared by the HR powerhouse Manpower, 81% of the surveyed employers would recommend other employers also to hire interns, while 84% said they were happy with the programs that existed in their companies.
In Mexico, the new government frameworked an internship program, “Jóvenes Construyendo un Futuro” (Youth Building a Future), to help domestic companies recruit interns, a program that received mainly criticism to this day. Its lack of professional relevance for interns has been the main downside of this program. According to a report from Animal Político, the companies contributing training are not innovative enough and therefore provide only limited technical skills to interns.
Tech companies have developed their own internship programs to find talents and sustain their development. Large technology companies such as Intel, Google, or IBM offer very elaborate internship programs in Mexico, but also medium-sized software development companies such as Planet Media, Blue Trail Software, or Gingroup.
Software internships? Speak English
The IADB offers year-round, winter and summer internships programs. At Oracle in Argentina, internships last twelve months, and the students invest four hours of their time in the facilities of the Parque Austral de Pilar, where they participate in an eight-stage program that includes training through online tutorials. Interns must be engineering students. Intel also offers a wide array of internships with requirements varying upon on the position.
This plentiness of internship programs is a make-believe, because there is a catch to those job opportunities: They all require a proficient level of English. The lack of proficiency in English can be a barrier for many skilled software developers. With this in mind, Blue Trail Software offers English classes to the interns who excelled in the technical interview but performed poorly with their English test.
The right internship
Internship programs vary from one company to another, even within the same industry. Location, schedule, and training program are some characteristics that the applicant must take into account in an internship. A prestigious company will not necessarily be the best choice.
For example, Google is a company where many software developers would like to work. However, internships offered in Mexico are in the areas of sales, technical support, or marketing, and they are just available in Mexico City for students enrolled in a Mexican university. With this in mind, for a self-taught software developer outside Mexico City, it is more convenient to look for an internship program more in line with his professional interests.
Case study: Internships @ Blue Trail Software
In Tepatitlán, a Mexican town near Guadalajara, Blue Trail Software offers internships that last six to eight months, with a vacancy for fifteen new interns every year.
A typical 8-hour day will be split in two:
- Theoretical learning led by the senior developers of the company. They teach programming techniques, group organization, leadership, and methodologies for software development, such as SCRUM and TDD (test-driven development).
- Practical training on the machines: The more advanced students begin to train as Full-Stack junior developers, while the others learn about quality assurance (QA) to become junior engineers in QA Automation.
There is no age limit to pursue an internship with Blue Trail: the company is willing to train anyone with the required skills and willingness. A prior knowledge of any specific programming languages is not required either.
The commitment of the company to develop opportunities with interns currently faces two challenges. One is the gender balance at the time of recruitment. Thanks to a program called Women Connect and active in Guadalajara, the company is able to reach out to a broader women labor force. Another challenge is attracting interns despite its remote location, so the company also rents a house for interns, making it affordable for those living in other states of Mexico to join Blue Trail’s internship program.
At the end of the program, Blue Trail Software ask interns to develop an app from scratch to show they’ve reached a full development autonomy. An in-house performance tracking system was developed to enable the company to measure the progress of employees hired through the internship program.
Early birds catch the worms
Around the world, internships have proven to be an effective way for the young workforce to move from education to the profession. However, Interns must ensure that the programs in line with their ambitions, and companies must ensure that their internship programs help students in their career. According to data from the Association of Colleges and Employers, students in the United States who participated in internships are 60% more likely to receive an offer of employment, because companies offered students a training curriculum that increased their chances to later find a job.