May 26, 2023

Remote work as an opportunity for professional development


Remote work has undoubtedly gained critical prominence in recent years. As we know very well and since the pandemic, online and hybrid ways of working have come significantly to the fore and there is no looking back.

The increasing digital transformation of the labour market, brings about considerable opportunities for higher education graduates. However, this potential might remain highly untapped if universities are not prepared to help their students grow into digital-ready workers.

For over two years now, the Erasmus+ co-financed project ON-IT – Online Internship in Tourism has been researching and building tools to develop meaningful online and hybrid internships. The main aim is to support students in acquiring the necessary skills to succeed in their future professional life, in which remote work will seemingly play a significant role.

The ON-IT seminar on Exploring Remote Work for Professional Development, hosted by the Faculty of Economics, Business and Tourism of the University of La Laguna, Tenerife, on 22 May 2023, focused precisely on this topic.

Held as a hybrid event with both a local and an online audience, the session featured a presentation by José Manuel Fortes Alayón on the Tenerife Work & Play platform, which seeks to attract digital talent to the island and establish a network of digital nomads. Additionally, some of the noteworthy outcomes of the ON-IT project were presented by the project coordinator Gigliola Paviotti, from the University of Macerata (Italy).

Although we are not sure of how remote work will evolve in the future, it is here to stay, and we need to be able to untap the opportunities it offers for people, regions and organisations alike, so that they can be prepared and step up their game in this newly shaped working scenario.

As an example, the Tenerife Work & Play platform, co-managed by LAUREON for the Government of Tenerife, aims to make Tenerife a world-class place for remote work by attracting foreign talent, bringing talented people back (reversing the brain drain), and keeping talent in the region. By fostering knowledge transfer, innovation, as well as business collaboration and creation, Tenerife Work & Play has contributed to make the island a remote-work-friendly destination. The resulting direct and indirect economic impact on the territory has already been significantly positive, as the initiative attracts people who value and live the place more, generating a far higher local expenditure than tourism.

If work is affected by digital transformation, so should be the internship experience, to help students develop the technical, but most of all, life skills needed to deal with this process. In this context, the ON-IT project is contributing to a better learning and codification of this new way of working in the context of internships.

Starting from a mapping of existing online internship examples from across Europe and beyond, the ON-IT consortium created a guideline document for all players involved in the internship experience (students, academic supervisors, and company tutors). At the same time, the project partners developed an online course for students to prepare for online and hybrid internship experiences. Both the guidelines and the course are currently being piloted through real cases of work-based learning, to identify potential critical points before making them available as open resources for further universities to implement.

The lessons learnt during the ON-IT journey are plenty. Among them, the importance of listening to all the actors involved in the internship experience. Students, lecturers, professors, counsellors, administrative staff, companies, organisations, all of them have needs and expectations that deserve consideration.

Keeping in mind that, even if working remotely, people are always placed in a region and part of a community, is also crucial, as it is the need to strengthen the dialogue between the university and businesses, so that students can have the opportunity to learn life skills that can not be taught at an academic level, but need to be absorbed from hands-on contexts.

Although the ON-IT project will formally end in August 2023, it needs to be considered as a starting point for deeper exploration. Therefore, an invitation for collaboration is open to all those who wish to contribute and research this topic further.

About the ON-IT project

The ON-IT – Online Internship in Tourism project aims to develop a guidance framework and practical tools to design and implement quality online tourism internships in higher education. By actively engaging all actors involved in the internship experience, the ON-IT project focuses on equipping them with the necessary knowledge and skills to face the challenges of digital transformation in the labour market.
Co-funded by the Erasmus+ project of the European Union, the project gathers 7 partners from all over Europe, committed to explore the challenges and opportunities of remote work-based learning: the University of Macerata (Lead Partner, Italy); the University of La Laguna (Spain); JAMK University of Applied Sciences (Finland); Faculty of Tourism and Hospitality Management of the University of Rijeka (Croatia); Montpellier Business School (France); Mediterranean Universities Union – UNIMED (Italy); and IGCAT (Spain).