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Is an internship a good way to boost career opportunities within the agrifood sector?

27 March 2020

Research has proven the positive role that experiential learning plays in the career outcomes of  graduates, with business internships undertaken whilst at university helping to improve students’ chances of finding employment upon graduation. The remarkable success of EIT  Food RIS Fellowships interns also explicitly demonstrates that internships greatly enhance career prospects in the food sector for those who decide to challenge themselves in a business environment and expose themselves to real job tasks.

The pros and cons of an internship abroad

Internships abroad can be very rewarding and yet financially challenging

Research conducted as part of the EIT Food RIS Fellowships project in October 2019 (see the infographic below), in which a total of 194 students were surveyed from RIS countries, showed that there are certain reservations among students about undertaking an internship in a foreign country.

The reason for this, highlighted through the research, is that a large proportion of respondents are still not financially independent. Interestingly, 48% of respondents indicate that they are still in some way supported by their parents, with 12% being completely dependent on their parents. Financing is the most common issue that may discourage students from taking part in an internship abroad, with the costs incurred by making the trip abroad being named as an obstacle by as many as 56% respondents. Students are also often afraid of departing from their home country, as they worry about leaving their family and friends and the technical issues they may encounter related to renting accommodation.

Research conducted by the University of Warsaw in 2019 with 194 students in RIS countries

On the other hand, when asked about the perks of interning abroad, students are very positive about the professional experience they will gain and the opportunity to improve their foreign language skills. Respondents also appreciated getting to know new people and cultures. Among the reasons for choosing a particular internship program, students highlight the opportunity for self-development and the ability to follow their interests and passions. Internships are also a perfect way for young people to gain valuable industry insight and connections to business professionals. In turn, the presence of newly graduate team members has a positive impact on raising the competitiveness and innovativeness of the market. In the case of EIT Food RIS Fellowships, it is the whole European food industry that stands to benefit.

Why should you sign up for an EIT Food RIS Fellowships?

RIS Interns benefit from mentoring, financial support and hands-on experience 

The project brings real value to the students, who can look forward to a transparent recruitment process, mentoring during the internships period, financing (€ 1350-2000) to help cover transportation and accommodation expenditures, as well as professional team support throughout all stages of the project. The most exciting aspect of industry internships is the ability to put academic knowledge into practice while gaining hands-on experience from the best industry specialists from the full spectrum of business areas. These can include R&D, marketing, digitalization, B2B, innovation management, lab and communication departments.

Such experience and exposure is also highly rated by previous RIS Fellowships participants. An impressive 100% of attendees from 2019 and 2018 would recommend the internship, citing the opportunity to be a part of innovation departments and having the chance to build a professional network with top industry players within a multidisciplinary environment. Interns also gain a wide range of skills: they quickly become well-organised, learn how to multitask under pressure, and are taught how to find the most appropriate solutions in a wide variety of business situations. Importantly, they gain knowledge from leaders of the food industry in Europe that they can then use professionally in their local markets upon completion of the internship period.

Enhanced job prospects after completing an EIT Food RIS Fellowships

Maja Oblak, a student from the EIT RIS country* of Slovenia, managed to secure a job in the agrifood sector at the Chamber of Agricultural and Food Enterprises at Ljubljana after attending the EIT Food RIS Fellowships program. Having applied online, Maja was able to demonstrate to the project evaluators that she had exceptional skills in communication, analytical thinking, and problem-solving. Puratos NV, one of the partners of the leading EIT Food community, invited Maja for an internship opportunity in their department of research & development in Groot-Bijgaarden in Belgium. Thanks to all the experience that she gained through her studies and internship, she was offered a fantastic new role at the Chamber of Agricultural and Food Enterprises after returning to Slovenia. The wide range of skills learned throughout the RIS Fellowships process brought her closer to working in the agrifood sector and allowed her to discover herself how rewarding a career in the food system can be.

"It's hard to get such an amazing insight into how a company works, especially at the very beginning of one's career. I also gained a huge amount of new knowledge and more confidence in myself. Working in a research & development department and seeing how much dedication a company can put into innovation was inspiring for my future career.” 

Mert Furkan Filizoğlu, a PhD student from Istanbul University, has developed an innovative business idea during his four-month long internship under the EIT Food RIS Fellowships. He participated in research for IATA, CSIC, in Spain as a part of the program, and developed his entrepreneurship idea with his partner Mehmet Can SUCU. Together, they worked on sustainable food alternatives and production methods for the fish industry. The main idea was concentrated on producing algae and algal products in an innovative way that would allow to lower the costs and increase the efficiency of the production to cover the need of the industry and replace fish and hunting activities with algae which also utilises CO2 effectively. As a PhD intern in CSIC, Mert discovered innovative methods for food packaging, which was one of the biggest challenges he faced as a researcher and innovator. Furthermore, spin-off companies from CSIC provided him with business insight into the operation processes of biotechnology companies. The most important lesson for Mert was understanding how to correctly store the products they have obtained from algae, which are sensitive to light and air.

"EIT Food RIS Fellowships provide opportunities for young entrepreneurs starting from the information they needed to actual field experiences in different countries. In this way, students like me gain the perspective of how to turn an idea into a business model. I am very excited to take our idea to the next step and challenge ourselves even more."

Mert has been able to take what he has learned about storage methods from his internship into his new startup, where he is now perfecting the design of a new production line for fish companies.

 

Apply now for the EIT FOOD RIS Fellowships

EIT Food’s leading European RIS Fellowships project is now open for interns!

Candidates from the 28 RIS countries* with different education backgrounds who are interested in bringing innovation to the agrifood sector are invited to join the recruitment process. We will be happy to welcome students and graduates of MSc, as well as PhD students or graduates who want to apply their knowledge in practice during paid internships in one of the eligible European countries.

Now it’s over to you - develop your talent with the leading agrifood players across Europe by applying now at: www.eitfoodrisfellowships.eu

The application deadline is 13ht April.

Still need more convincing? Listen to previous MSc and Phd students who have participated in the EIT Food RIS Fellowships program:

 

*Countries and regions eligible to take part in the EIT Food RIS Fellowships project: www.eitfoodrisfellowships.eu

EIT Food

About The Author: EIT Food

EIT Food is Europe’s leading food innovation initiative, working to make the food system more sustainable, healthy and trusted.

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