Joanie Vasiliadis – 3. The Italian Labor MarketRome Internships, Spring 2012

If you’ve read my previous posts, you know that I was first very taken back by the differences between Italian and American education systems. Thus when learning about the Italian labor market, I wasn’t too surprised to find it to be completely different from that of the United States. Many of the IES interns work in small businesses around Rome and have the first hand experience that I do not. That being said, I’ve definitely noticed the effects of the Italian labor market by simply living in Rome. In the US, there’s a heavy presence of large, transnational corporations with intense hierarchies and global influence. In contrast, Italy is composed of over 200 regional districts, each specialized in the production of a good specific to that region. Business in the manufacturing sector is characterized by high intensity of labor, low capital investment, and low technology. In large corporations in the United States, there’s constant competition and individuals trying to “climb the corporate ladder,” whereas Italy’s small enterprises, many times family run, have little opportunity for upward mobility.

Because I work in a high school, I haven’t directly experienced an Italian workplace. Fortunately many of our interns shared accounts of their internships, and I’ve taken the liberty of including them in this post!

Joe Barnes interns at a consulting firm that works on worldwide consulting projects. Joe works with an eight person staff in an environment that he described as flexible autocracy. Working there, Joe noticed the sense of family within the workplace and the absence of any rush, describing leisurely coffee breaks with friendly conversation. For those of you who have experienced the American workplace, you know this is a far cry from our frantic morning Starbucks runs. Communication in the workplace is animated, theatrical, and intense, a definite mirror of Italian culture in general!

Lauren Halberg, who interns for an Independent Film Festival, also picked up on the importance of good relationships while at her placement. Having experienced how interns are (mis)treated in the US, she’s been really appreciative of the fact that her boss values her as a team member and appreciates his interns. Lauren spends the majority of her internship responding to emails, translating, and preparing for the festival in April, which brings together filmmakers from across the globe.

Other IES interns work at art galleries, cultural foundations, and various businesses in Rome where they have all experienced a variation on a small workplace characterized by camaraderie and collaboration. Because the Italian labor market is suffering an economic crisis, their coworkers are grateful for their careers and work diligently and efficiently. Unfortunately, I can’t help but wonder about the future of Rome, and where and if my students will find work.  In my opinion, the lack of fervor in the Italian youth to invest in their futures is due to a complete lack of faith in the Italian labor market. Where is the labor market headed? While I don’t have an answer, it’s definitely something I’ll be keeping up with, even back in the States.

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