During the class of Rebuilding Education, we are asked to imagine a world where our education system is perfect. If we had our way with education, what would we improve, or what we would like to have. Upon sharing our experiences, our dialogue concluded that we would love to do an internship before finishing our studies, however, we find that applying and looking for such positions could be rigorous and quite mundane. We thought, how easy and fun would it be if finding a job is as easy as finding a date through a dating app, which most university students probably have and use regularly. The long journey of looking high and low has inspired us to create a fusion of the contrasting activities, where students can ‘swipe’ to their preferred internship position, hence our product, ‘Internswipe’ is born, in a form of an app. After multiple discussions with stakeholders and Nuffic Neso, we incorporated their feedback to focus on university students, especially internationals, to connect them with internships positions with companies in the Netherlands. With added in-app information regarding everything an employer needs to know, from legal to procedural, to information and benefits of hiring internationals. Through the Internswipe, we aim to reduce discrimination and provide equal opportunities for every student in the Netherlands.
To a lot of us, we go to school to get a job, one can even say it is deemed as the ‘end goal’. Everyone in the class, along with most of the people we know are currently university students or are doing a higher education, and we admit we are more interested in doing an internship before graduation. Why do students seek internships in the first place? Internships make students as applicants more attractive to recruiters and lead them to secure jobs faster and easier as they have more experience. Internships also have been shown to help students transition from academics to real life, while seeing if they match with the company environment and values.
Internships offer students a valuable working experience and entry into the labor market. According to a 2019 survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), over 70% of US interns are offered a job following their internship. Internships are therefore an integral part of a well-functioning labor market. Especially as an international student, internships can offer a much needed gateway into a foreign labor market.
First and foremost, we need to recognize that the Netherlands have different types of bachelor programmes, retrieved from the Bachelors Portal. The two main types of higher education institutions offering undergraduate degrees in the Netherlands, namely applied science universities and research universities. Applied Science universities, or Higher Professional Education (HBO) last three or four years studying a field and will always include a work placement. Research universities or University Education (WO) follow the Bologna system and last three years, and they do not usually include work experience in their curriculum. Apart from the main higher education institutions, students can also be found doing a secondary vocational education (MBO) after high school; it is equivalent to junior college education, focusing on vocational training. These three streams of Dutch Tertiary Education would be expected to be ready to enter the job market post graduation.
Secondly, it is important to note that the Netherlands is one of the most attractive countries for students all over the world to attend university in, that is mostly due to the amount of the programmes are taught in English. In the academic year of 2017 and 2018, 23% of all bachelor degree programmes and 74% of all masters degree programmes offered by Dutch universities were entirely in English, not to mention the amount of other higher education programmes and vocational schools that are also taught in English. This fact alone attracts internationals to the Netherlands, as they do not need to learn Dutch prior to applying to study there. Specifically, it is reported that over 90,000 international students have been counted in the Netherlands in the last two years, according to Nuffic (The organization of international education in the Netherlands). However, it is important to consider that even though these education institutions are instructed in English, some labor markets either require Dutch proficiency or are centered around Dutch culture.
With that being said, we would like to shine light on university students, especially internationals, focusing on non-European students. The research university system includes more coursework and prepares students in the academic field, focusing on research. Nonetheless, some programmes have professional components and most of them actually do end up wanting to find work outside the research community.
One could argue that doing an internship is not compulsory in research universities. It is true that internships are common in higher education, and not so much in research universities as it is more so academic focused. But the truth of the matter is that there are not enough spaces in academia. Therefore, students have to reach out to other options and fields, and often enough such options require experience, and that is where internships become useful for students in research universities. Internationals also face more hardships in finding such internships or work, as they face legal, procedurals and financial barriers. Internationals often find themselves having to have work permits, negotiate an internship agreement to their respective universities (such as the Nuffic tri party agreement), even simple things such as transport and relocation possibilities. As such, whether a student is enrolled in a WO, HBO and MBO, it is easier when he/she is of Dutch or European citizenship when we consider all limitations, especially when we consider the discrimination among internationals. Our stakeholders in Nuffic Neso agree that international students are often excluded or treated differently.
At the same time, by 2021, the number of vacancies in the Netherlands has exceeded the number of talent. According to the Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek (CBS) or Statistics Netherlands, the number of job offers is currently at a record high, whereas the number of unemployed people is at its lowest since 2003. Additionally, the number of pensioners is extremely high when compared to the working population. The Netherlands is therefore in need of extra labor force, and the increasing numbers of international students in the country represent a largely neglected source of that labor force.
Why are they not hiring each other? In the lens of an international student, information is either scarce, or is very fragmented. According to a 2019 working paper by the ICMPD, most international students encounter “a poorly coordinated patchwork of occasional career fairs, job application trainings, and chance encounters with service staff or company representatives who may or may not be able to help them.” Such things might not be enough as they do not provide as much context-bound knowledge and embeddedness of Dutch culture, leading to confusion and loss of motivation.
In the lens of the job market, according to a presentation by Jouke van Dijk on the integration of international students to the labor market, it is that small, medium-sized companies are reluctant on hiring internationals due to language and/or cultural barriers. They also might hesitate on hiring non-Dutch/European due to legal and procedural barriers as well, for instance the effort needed to arrange a permit for the applicant, or their lack of awareness of such procedures or benefits of hiring an international student.
This creates an urgency, a need for a bridge to connect the two. Internships offer international students an accessible way into not only Dutch industries and businesses, but Dutch culture as a whole. This encourages students to continue both their careers and personal lives in the Netherlands, therefore increasing retention. It is therefore in the best interest of the Dutch government to encourage international students to apply for internships.
Students learn many, many things in higher education, and absorb valuable knowledge for the future. But what they might lack in receiving is the knowledge to get around in the world, and their knowledge of their own selves, their value, skills and their preferences. Sometimes, they would have to seek this knowledge elsewhere in their university course, and they might not have the best information available. We would like to help students, also concerning both the shortage of the labor market and the number of university students, especially internationals, looking for vacancies. There is a need for an enabler, a bridge the gap between the disconnection. The two parties should be able to solve each other’s problems, creating a win-win situation.
This position paper proposes a one integrated internship app designed for both university students and companies. At its core, the app is similar to dating apps like Tinder or Bumble – users enter information about themselves, specify who they are looking for using filters, look through other users’ profiles and then “swipe right” on users they like. And instead of individuals looking for love, the users of the app will be students of Dutch Tertiary Education (more specifically international students of research universities) regardless if they have recently graduated or in any year, looking for an internship or work, and companies who are looking for employees. If both users swipe right on each other, they get to chat and possibly move forward with the relationship. Internswipe works in the same way, except it is meant to further one’s professional and educational future, rather than a romantic future and is designed with fairness in mind. This design increases the accessibility of internships for a number of reasons. Firstly, the user-friendly and fun interface is much less intimidating than a traditional internship website, so that the student will actually want to reach for their phone and open the app. Secondly, to further facilitate greater accessibility of internships especially for international students, the app includes mechanisms to prevent discrimination and increase transparency on the part of the employer as much as possible. Students’ nationalities, names and ages are hidden until later in the process, and students get to set filters for companies but not vice versa, and companies must include pre-set information in their posting so that students never have to wonder about the exact requirements of a position. Not only that, the app will provide a screen just for resources to both the students and companies, to provide information on the world of the job market.
Companies will find great use of this app, as Internswipe aims to make the employer’s job easier by being an enabler. Rather than looking at hundreds or thousands of applicants through the form that may not suit you, or having to reach out to quality candidates (in Linkedin, for example) that may not be interested in your company, the filters in the app help sort through the candidates, and companies only have to swipe through students who are qualified and already interested. The app is also provided with resources and toolkits that help to demystify the process of hiring internationals, which can help them fill staffing shortages as well as increase the diversity at their company. That way, they can acquire the best applicant possible, through the matching process.
The main advantages of the app:
This is how the app will work:
From the Student’s Point of View
Sign up, Set up
From the Company’s Point of View
We aim to make this app into a reality with a main goal in mind, not only to help students attain internships easily, by giving them as many opportunities as possible. Internswipe does that and is designed to give every student a chance to also get to know themselves and their skills, a platform that seeks to educate them in more ways than the education system conventionally does.
Internships offer students an “autonomous, multifaceted context of learning”, and that it leads graduates to have a “privileged access” because internships also offer references for students’ future career. Through internships, students have an opportunity to develop their skills and competencies that they may not achieve through their education alone. Internships, being a work-related experience, are considered to be a win-win-win for students, employers and the educational institution, which is the university (Silva et al, 2016). Universities also benefit from internships as they could also continuously improve the quality of education from the partnership experience and have a good reputation. Also in a philosophical view, the app aims to provide equal information and opportunities that the students might not be aware of, because they deserve it. Especially for international students who are far away from home and have put so much into coming here and learning.
It would also be better if the app is integrated to universities along with the universities career centers.
Internships may bring multiple benefits for the student, and not only students are aware of these benefits, but they also need to want to do the internships as well. In other words, they need the motivation to do so. There are two types of motivation, intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation originates from the self, and doing an internship should be driven from the student’s own interest. Extrinsic motivation also plays a heavy role for students to do an internship, because one could do an internship to achieve a certain outcome. Our app aims to motivate the student both intrinsically and extrinsically, as the user. If Internswipe, as the platform, exists in the form of an app, it would be easy for students to first download the app, as easy it is for them to download any dating app.
When students reach the registration and My Profile screen, they would want to fill their information with the best version of themselves. That way, they would feel the need to improve themselves to be that version of themselves, that can decorate the space for their personalities and job experiences. The filters screen concerns aspects such as language, skills and preferences, which provide a space for them to know themselves, and ideas to improve those aspects. The matching screen helps students to know which positions ‘like’ them back, and helps them get to know what the labor market is looking for. Just like the company’s side with their resources screen, the students also have such features to let them know procedural information, what they can do to improve themselves, tutorials on how to make a CV, a cover letter, and how to communicate with employers and coworkers. This is under the aspect of ‘gamification’
Gamification is the the use of game design elements in non game contexts, where gaming refers to playing within a certain set of rules with the purpose of obtaining a goal or specific outcome. Applying gamification as a learning method by implementing game principles could foster and grow the students’ learning motivation. When motivation is increased, students are more likely to be academically involved.
The core idea of the gamification is that it needs to be interactive. When students are psychologically rewarded by getting a “like” back from their positions that they have “liked” beforehand, it increases the students’ dopamine. The method of matching would make the internship search process more enjoyable, while still retaining their focus to find the right internship. This brings a balance between comfortable user experience and finding the best position still.
The process of liking a specific job, anticipating a like back from the organization, and receiving a match increases dopamine activity in the brain, therefore, increases the likelihood that a student/applicant would want to use the app.
By matching strategy, the employer benefits from this app by assessing person environment fit. Specifically, it allows for active recruitment of high talent candidates that fit an organization’s culture and values as opposed to passively waiting for resumes and referrals. The matching concept could also enhance the attractiveness of an organization to potential job candidates, as they can see what applicants will “bring to the table”. We also added a review/ratings screen to ensure that previous interns and students can share their experiences working in a specific position in a specific company, to motivate companies to also provide the best working environment.
Companies in the Netherlands lack the awareness of hiring internationals in the workforce, when diversity brings a number of benefits. When they practice diversity recruiting, they hire candidates free from any biases, regardless of their background. Companies can benefit from diversity recruiting, as people from international, diverse backgrounds offer different talents, skills and experiences that they may not get when they only hire Dutch students. This creates innovation and grows the talent pool, and can improve overall employee performance as diversity and inclusivity could lead to a higher team morale. The company also enjoys the filters feature as they could easily sort their own preferences, whether it be the language they are comfortable in, the specific skills set they are looking for, and what kind of person the applicant is, also through the built in chat feature. The resources screen will also help them with every information needed to help them with any administrative and legal procedures, along with benefits of hiring internationals and how it will help the students, the company and society in general.
Adding to the awareness agenda, there is a need to recognize international university students as highly skilled migrants. It could be emphasized that they are positive contributions of “imported brains”. We shine these benefits into light as part of the awareness to diminish the discrimination against international students. If students stay here to work, they help labor shortages, pay taxes and could therefore help the economy.
Some international students would require different working visas or permits. Retrieved from the Netherlands Point of Entry, there are different situations that non-European students should consider. For example if a student is doing an internship as part of their programme, they would need to sign a tri-party internship agreement between the employer and the academic institution. If a student is doing an internship after their studies, they would need to apply for an Orientation Year (Zoekjaar). Retrieved from the NL Alumni Network, a company could find the steps needed to take to hire an international student, with different situations.
With the resources section of the tutorial screen, we aim to educate Dutch companies on these different permits and possibilities available when recruiting an international student within our app.
Although this position paper focuses on university students, especially internationals, it is due to the fact that they are in the most sensitive position of this scope, through our understanding. However, the product is flexible and is very possible to extend and also include students of applied science universities, MBOs, and other institutions of Dutch Tertiary Education. Dutch and European students are also suitable future users of this app as we would also like to include companies who prefer and are only comfortable with such applicants, due to time, finance and legal matters. Internswipe does not discriminate, so long as all parties are open to learn and would accept us to spread awareness.
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