Youth transitions into work: a UK Spanish comparison

  • Lain, David (PI)
  • O'Reilly, Jacqueline (CoPI)
  • Richards, Victoria (PI)
  • Will, Sue (PI)
  • Hadjivassiliou, Kari (CoI)
  • Gloster, Rosie (CoI)
  • Alza, Antonio Corral (CoI)
  • Bilbao, Iñigo Isusi (CoI)

Project Details


Funding from the Santander Business Research and Collaboration Fund enabled crucial comparative research into the role of internships in addressing high youth unemployment in the UK and Spain. In 2010, Dr David Lain coordinated this project and the research team worked in collaboration with colleagues from the Institute for Employment Studies (IES) and IKEI Research and Consultancy in Spain.

Internships have grown in importance in the UK and EU, and were being promoted as a policy lever for addressing high youth unemployment. However, there were concerns that many internships are exploitative, representing little more than unpaid – or very low paid – work with few development activities. It was also feared that less advantaged young people are unable to access good jobs through internships.

The Santander-funded study allowed the team to explore what makes some internships more successful than others in terms of promoting youth employment. It identified the importance of governance mechanisms that ensure internships are of a high quality and have mutually beneficial outcomes for employers and interns.

The aim of this research was to highlight the key trends, developments and implications of youth employment transitions in the UK and Spain. The team sought to focus on the key transition from school into the workplace and improve understanding about the causes and remedies of youth unemployment in both countries. By exploring the role of internships, education and training, we aimed to identify some of the associated policy challenges for future debate.

Key findings

Our research findings indicated that governed internships, linked to educational programmes or genuine active labour market policies, are much more likely to have beneficial outcomes than open market internships. This is because they provide the positive governance conditions relating to contract, duration and partnership arrangements under which employers, interns and third parties understand how they can benefit from the internship and what their responsibilities are.

We broadened the focus beyond educational internships alone and proposed a conceptual framework for future research. By increasing understanding of internship governance, employers, policymakers and educationalists will be in a better position to design successful internships.

The success of this research contributed to our team being awarded the role of overall project coordinator for the Strategic Transitions for Youth Labour in Europe (STYLE) project. Funded by a €5 million EU FP7 research grant, the STYLE project aims to examine the obstacles and opportunities affecting youth employment in Europe. Find out more by visiting our STYLE project page.


Lain, D, Hadjivassiliou, K, Alza, AC, Isusi, I, O'Reilly, J, Richards, V and Will, S (2014) Evaluating internships in terms of governance structures: contract, duration and partnership European Journal of Training and Development 38 (6) 588-603.

O'Reilly, J and Lain, D (2010) Labour Market Transitions in Comparative Perspective: Policy briefing from EU research findings IHS Work Care Synergies
Effective start/end date1/09/1031/08/12


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