It is not a secret that experience is key to boosting employability. In a society where degrees are increasingly common, relevant experience now is not a bonus but rather a necessity for job seeking graduates.
Having met with PR students studying at rival institutions I became interested in the idea of compulsory placements. My degree course encourages us to seek placements from our first year, however other courses take it a step further and require students to complete a designated minimum time of industrial experience to pass the each level. Some courses require a 42 week placement year to be able to gain the degree. Fail to get a year placement, fail to get a degree!
When graduate jobs are competitive and many low level jobs require a years previous experience, by ensuring graduates have a good number of placements on their CV means they increase their likelihood of finding a great job.
Compulsory placements also support the movement of PR towards becoming a profession, a popular movement in some PR circles. Many professions, such as teaching and nursing, involve placements during training. Even dismissing the PR profession debate, can a graduate really be ready for an industry if they have never experienced it first hand?
On the other hand it would be hard to find a PR academic who does not encourage gaining work experience. Even while it may not be deemed compulsory most institutions will direct students towards gaining placements while studying. University is not about spoonfeeding students, it is a place for independent learning and research, supported by classroom theory. Motivated students will actively seek placements without being forced into doing so, these are the students who will graduate with the strongest degrees.
Another issue that could arise from compulsory work experience is the issue of unpaid placements. While I have previously supported such schemes, they do have a time and place. I do not feel easy with the idea of a PR student undertaking a year’s unpaid internship because otherwise they will fail their course.
I would be interested to hear your opinion on compulsory work experience. Good or bad?
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