ENHANCING EMPLOYABILITY SKILLS THROUGH INTERNSHIPS: PERCEPTIONS OF FOREIGN MASTER STUDENTS IN GERMANY

A. Kapanen1, S. Dressler1, D. Edgar2, T. Rachfall1

1HTW Berlin (GERMANY)
2Glasgow Caledonian University (UNITED KINGDOM)
This paper investigates foreign management and engineering Master students’ perceptions of the effect of internships on their employability skills. It adapts the employability skills portfolio developed in the European OVPELO project and applies it in a survey of foreign students engaged in internships at German companies. The study explores the learning conditions, processes and outcomes in the nine employability skills areas of the OVPELO framework. The research explains the development of foreign student employability during internships. Furthermore, it aims at suggesting practices that students, educators and employers can apply to enhance the employability outcomes of internships.

The research addresses the problem of disappointing employment outcomes among foreign university graduates in Germany. Surveys and statistics indicate that while three out of four foreign students desire to work in Germany after graduation, only one out of four graduates succeeds in entering full-time employment in Germany. The urgency of alleviating the problem of weak employability continues to grow with the growing proportion of foreign students at German universities: currently, foreign students represent 13 percent of all students and 20 percent of new enrolments.

Internships during studies can make an important contribution to the development of graduate employability. In particular, foreign students may lack culturally adapted generic job market and workplace skills, which are given less attention than technical skills in higher education. Internships provide foreign students an opportunity to develop employability skills through easily accessible practical exposure in Germany.

This study is conducted using a mixed-method design comprising a questionnaire survey and follow-up interviews. The research sample consists of foreign Master students at the HTW Berlin, University of Applied Sciences.