Building the next generation of foreign policy professionals

Parliament House

By Renuka Rajadurai

Like any other industry, the world of foreign affairs has unique characteristics that a classroom education alone simply can’t prepare students for. Dealing with high profile stakeholders, managing deep research projects, organising international events and communicating policy recommendations, requires skills-based learning about how professionals in the space collaborate and interact.

A recent study by the Australian Institute for International Affairs (AIIA) on the benefits of internships offered by the institute (for both the student and the organisation) reveals the practical learning outcomes, career benefits, and broader contribution to the development of talent in the field, such programs enable. Ultimately, internship programs such as this are an important opportunity for students in the space to develop the soft skills required to negotiate the complicated and political world of foreign affairs.

For organisations, internship programs can increase brand profile and awareness, help attract top talent, and longer term potentially help influence its position in the space. For the student, the study shows that key drivers to apply for the internship included the need to experience practical tasks and help develop their career.

In light of this, the study highlighted the need amongst these students, for more structured training and high-quality supervision, as well as a greater focus on providing explicit career advice.

In this regard, the AIIA case study offers a great source of insight for other foreign policy institutes exploring the option of offering internship programs in the future.

View the full report here.

The scholarly essay ‘Building the next generation of foreign policy professionals: One internship at a time’, was published by International Journal and authored by Melissa Conley Tyler National Executive Director, Australian Institute of International Affairs, Olivia Rothnie-Jones Former intern, Australian Institute of International Affairs, Kate McCambridge Former intern, Australian Institute of International Affairs, Eleanor Walsh Former intern, Australian Institute of International Affairs.

Image souce: Wikimedia Commons

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Renuka Rajadurai