75% of internships now require applicants to have industry-specific skills

The shift has implications for college curricula

Once upon a time, internships may have existed for the purpose of on-the-job skills training. 

Now? Not so much.

According to recent research from Burning Glass Technologies, companies are increasingly hiring interns who already have the required skills in their arsenal, changing the purpose of an internship from skill-building to gaining work experience.

The Burning Glass research looked at over 40,000 employer websites per day from September 2015 to October 2016. 

3 ways schools can ensure their students are getting valuable experience out of internships

Burning Glass then found that of the internships posted, nearly 75% required specific industry skillsets, such as:

  • IT;
  • Marketing;
  • Engineering; or
  • Project management.

Scott Bittle, the director of communications at Burning Glass, says of the findings, "Employers are being a lot more specific about the skills they expect from interns... employers expect interns to show up with specific software skills already in hand, such as SAP in business operations, AutoCAD in engineering, or Adobe Photoshop in arts and design."

An internship description's list of required skills often includes some relevant to the broader industry and others focused on the specific position. 

Colleges increasingly need to instill soft skills as well as technical skills

"A marketing internship will typically demand skills in social media and marketing research, while a sales internship will ask for business development or sales management," Bittle explains.

Writing for HR Dive, Valerie Bolden-Barrett notes that this trend has implications for job training sources: "The change from internships as training opportunities for workers to sources of skilled labor is major," she writes. "Many young adults received valuable job training as interns, but it seems now that employers are seeing internships as a sort of tryout for young talent" (Bolden-Barrett, HR Dive, 2/24; Mauer, Society for Human Resource Management site, 2/23).

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