A month of quality internships: Creative young people awarded

Belgrade Open School (BOS) and National Youth Council of Serbia (NYCS) organized an online discussion with youth and awarded the most creative young people who participated in the competition regarding the Month of quality internships called “Don’t be a Ficus! Let’s talk about internships!”. An International Interns Day (10th of November) was in the past four years marked through public performances and raising awareness campaigns on the importance of internships, in Serbia. However, this year BOS and NYCS decided to declare November as the Month of Quality Internships.

The discussion was led by Ivan Topalovic, project manager within the program area for the Improvement of Employability in BOS, Stefan Djordjevic, general secretary of NYCS, and Milica Borjanic, program coordinator in NYCS.

Previous research in Serbia has shown that young people have a positive attitude towards internships, but only 50% of young people participated in an internship without mentorship. The data shows that 78% of young people participated in an internship without the contract, and 90% of them were not paid.

Youth from Serbia asked various questions, among them how to empower young people who weren’t previously active in organizations, nor are from big cities to even find an internship and to think in this way? Or questions such as: How should a selection process for an internship even look?

“The are currently no laws which arrange internships on the open market as programs for acquiring work experience with the goal of improvement of employability and transition towards employment. This situation affects young people and employers who decide not to turn to internship programs, as well as decision-makers because one of improvement of employability measures is not implemented adequately”, said Ivan Topalovic, project manager in BOS.

“Internships are often seen as something that needs to be in CV, lasts for a couple of months and a place where young people sometimes accept to be “Ficuses” because they are not getting feedback that there is a possibility to continue to work after an internship is finished, which tells us we are in a bad position as a society when it comes to internships. That is why we need institutional changes in the legislative framework so we can change our perception towards internships”, highlighted Stefan Djordjevic, general secretary in NYCS.

The most creative young people were awarded for the innovative and creative descriptions of quality internships. An independent commission had a hard task to evaluate and grade the essays, and video clips that were sent in the competition. The most creative materials will be published on websites and social media networks of BOS and NYCS.

Milica Borjanic pointed out that young people must get to know their rights and to have a perception of contribution for the society and company that they make, and to be awarded for that. Also, young people going through an internship can expand their knowledge to their peers and friends and get them familiarized with internships.

Quality internships present one of the program goals of BOS and NYCS. Both organizations will continue to work on improving all elements for quality internships described by recommendations from the European Union.

The Month of Quality Internships is realized through project “WeB4YES – Western Balkan Initiative for Youth Employment Support”, funded by the European Commission. The project has a goal of empowering CSOs in 6 countries of Western Balkan to participate in decision making and recommending changes in public policies for youth employment.