You may have heard of newly graduated students not finding a job within the first couple of years. Sadly, many companies prefer to hire someone with relevant working experience. Fortunately, though, students in Denmark get to experience the job market firsthand during their studies – through an internship (praktik), student employment (studentmedhjælper) and apprenticeship (erhvervsuddannelse).
Internships are part of certain types of further education which I mentioned in the last issue's article. This kind of internship is unpaid, and as a student in Denmark, you instead receive financial support from the state (SU). In the past, companies were not permitted to pay students during their internship. However, in 2017, the parliament passed a bill that now allows companies to pay the students an amount of maximum 3000 DKK during their full-time internship. It is voluntary for the company to offer this, and the company decides the amount.
The position and its tasks are usually related to the student's studies. The idea of having interns is to provide them insights into a real working environment and hands-on experience opportunities.
Being hired as a student employee is like having a part-time job besides your studies. The student gets paid for their work. When a company seeks a student employee, they often look for someone whose studies are within the companies' job tasks.
Apprenticeships in Denmark are also called vocational training. Apprenticeships include trainee positions such as shop assistant, baker, office positions, carpenter, painter, etc. Trainees must enrol in vocational training programmes. They usually start with an introduction period in school, and then, they will begin their apprenticeship at companies. Students need to search out their own apprenticeships. Some schools require that you have already found an apprenticeship before you are admitted to the training programme, while some schools try their best to help students find their own apprenticeships.
"Apprenticeships are paid, and the salary is at a trainee level. A contract must be drawn up and signed by the company and the student."
Apprenticeships are paid, and the salary is at a trainee level. A contract must be drawn up and signed by the company and the student. In most cases, the students themselves must make sure the contract content and conditions are reasonable (with no help from the schools). That is why it's a good idea to contact a union that often offers students free membership. As a member, you can seek advice and assistance from the unions, who also help go through the contracts for legal reasons that are all in Danish.
During the apprenticeship, students will work fulltime, just like any other regular employee. Occasionally, they need to spend some weeks in school. They also have exams and a project at the end of the apprenticeship. Some get employed at the same companies after the apprenticeship has ended. While other job searches and are gainfully employed due to the working experience they have already gained.
What are the benefits?
The initial benefit is applying the theories at work, finishing the programme, and getting a certificate, which should then lead to better employment opportunities after graduating.
Students get to expand their horizon at a workplace and experience company culture firsthand, whilst gaining inside knowledge of how different departments collaborate. This helps them to understand they have their tasks and responsibilities, and others at work have expectations. Their communication and interpersonal skills can also be improved during everyday work – essential for their future career. Such experiences gained from a real workplace helps them prepare for a new chapter in their life.