The Tryout Economy is what we call the shift from offering people traditional jobs to offering them internships or temporary assignments as "tryouts" where they are evaluated in-depth prior to getting a premanent job offer.
This shift to tryouts is part of the broader shift away from traditional jobs and towards contingent work.
The reasons for this are straight forward. Firms are trying their best not expand their full time workforce unless absolutely necessary, and when they do add traditional employees they want to make sure they are getting capable workers with the skills to do a good job.
The growth of internships - both in numbers and importance - is a good example of the tryout economy in action. They are pretty much the only way college students can get full time jobs in some fields - investment banking, for example.
They are also increasingly being offered to those out of school, especially millennials (young adults) trying to break into fields like fashion and entertainment.
The New York Times For Interns, All Work and No Payoff chronicles the downside of this trend. Key quote:
Call them members of the permanent intern underclass: educated members of the millennial generation who are locked out of the traditional career ladder and are having to settle for two, three and sometimes more internships after graduating college, all with no end in sight.
There's both a good side and bad side to the increase in internships. The good side is it gives work experience and job skills to people without them. It also provides an opportunity to test different jobs and careers.
The bad side includes potentially abusive internships that provide few if any job skills and little hope of being hired full time. There are other downsides and Propublica covers most of them in their series on internships.
This is another example of what we've come to think of as the yin and yang of work in the new economy.