Summer Internships: a way to turn your summer into a career opportunity

Summer Internship Programme has been a fixture in summer initiatives at Vytautas Magnus University (VMU) for five year already, successfully offering students from abroad an opportunity to gain professional skills in Lithuania during the summer. This year, the programme is back to VMU’s Baltic Summer University under the new name as Smart Practice Lab: Summer Internship Programme (SIP). And it is more than its name that’s changed. Thanks to the collaboration with VMU’s own Centre for Enterprise Practices (CEP), the new and improved SIP addresses the need for students to cultivate their personal skills and problem-solving abilities rather than just to adapt to the setting of a specific institution. To shed more light on how this is going to work and what to expect from the new curriculum of SIP, we interviewed Dr. Osvaldas Stripeikis, Head of the Centre for Enterprise Practices (CEP) and one of the teachers at the course.

How would you shortly describe Centre for Enterprise Practice and where does the secret of its success lie? 

VMU Centre for Enterprise Practice is located at the very heart of Kaunas. It unites a community who lives and breathes the ideas of entrepreneurship and is wholeheartedly interested in them. CEP unites over 1000 alumni of our Entrepreneurship Academy, 160 of our current students and a network of over 80 companies well known in Lithuania and abroad, 100+ solved challenges of companies and organizations, and over 40 academics and professionals that help students solving the problems along the way. In 2018, CEP’s project Entrepreneurship Academy won in the category of Investments in Entrepreneurship Skills in the European Enterprise Promotion Awards, recognized as one of the best experiences in the continent.

Why does it all work out so well? It is probably related to a unique combination of globally-renowned methodologies, intensive training programmes, camps and creative workshops, professional mentorship and a wide scope of different tasks and business challenges that allow our programme participants not only to benefit from the experience-based learning approach, but also to improve their knowledge, broaden their horizons, leave their comfort zone and ultimately develop their entrepreneurial skills. We have this all systemized into a comprehensive and authentic EQ-thinking model, developed by CEP and this is what we offer for SIP participants.

Could you please tell us a little bit more about the methods used and competences to be developed during the SIP?

During the four weeks, SIP participants will have a chance to grow not only on the personal level, but also as team members solving problems and implementing ideas together. They should anticipate group work in interdisciplinary teams, personal entrepreneurial competences development, individual and group mentoring and couching. Challenging real companies or organizations. Case-solving practice using toolbox of creative methods, such as “Design Thinking®”, which is designed for a comprehensive analysis of real-life challenges within five stages of this methodology; “Lego Serious Play®” employs playing that not only helps the ones involved to better know themselves, but also the team as well. “Points of you®” is a highly effective tool applied to analyse the internal processes of the team and for reflection. Other methods employed throughout the entire process include “Business Model Canvas®”, “Method Kit®”, “Personal Business Model You®”, etc. Moreover, the programme offers a unique, exclusive and intensive 3-day summer bootcamp.

In addition, you get to enjoy summer in Lithuania, explore its culture and everything it has to offer.

What is important for students who are approaching the entrance into the job market? How SIP will help them?

Each person entering the job market is looking for the opportunities for self-realization and finding a way to create the scenario of the future they like. In the meantime, the employer tries to find an employee who would share the values of the company, possess an ability to stay motivated and act both individually and as a team member, identify his or her weaknesses and strengths, and adapt quickly in a constantly changing labor market. We often hear our companies/partners claiming that for them, perfect employees are the ones sharing the generally positive approach towards work and perception of the situation rather than specific skills and knowledge on the subject. Our goal is to help the students, through four main competences, to develop their personal entrepreneurial “gene”: emotional intellect, creative thinking, teamwork and effective performance.

We have no doubt that a person who discovers these competences in oneself and starts cultivating them consciously will not only be a great team player, but also a potential team leader with undeniable advantage in the labour market. Within these four weeks, these precise competences will be cultivated through team and personal tasks.

Why such practice is more appealing than internship in a company?

Spending a month in one company is, of course, a great experience for each student, but we have a question: is this the most beneficial scenario for the intern? It is no secret that we spend the first two weeks in a new place trying to become acquainted with the place of internship, with the company structure, its principles and specifics, and by the time we get used to it, there are no longer any human and time resources to tackle real-life challenges. So, we think that such practice provides only very superficial view of the company; meanwhile, we offer to dive into the depths of the professional experience. During SIP, students will work in an interdisciplinary team and solve real-life challenges, while being offered an intensive mentorship from business companies and professional mentoring and consultations from CEP. At the end of the programme, students will pitch their final idea, i.e. a specific solution to company/organization representatives.

To leave us with some inspiration, could you share a success story?

Of course. A fine example out of many would be our collaboration with FESTO, a globally known company working with automation solutions. During the autumn semester, they gave us a task to create and develop their image as an appealing employer on social media. This is a difficult yet a very relevant task for a company that was tackled by a team of members from different organizations. While still university freshmen themselves, advised by specialists, mentors and company experts, they solved it successfully. The solution pitched by the students is now actually applied by FESTO and during the last meeting with company representatives, they asked our students: “Why don’t you work at our company themselves?” It is a great example how solving real-life solutions, students not only get to know how the company works, the ins and outs of it, but also get to communicate with their senior officers and thus gain valuable knowledge and may even get a job offer without prior work experience. This is how Summer Internship Programmes is going to help our students to shape their future.