The Value of Internship

“We want to expose our students to work ethics and place them in an industry where they belong because companies want products that are ready”

Windhoek – Increasingly, institutions of higher learning and companies are placing importance in the value of internships and are making provision for this very important component of career development.
One of the Polytechnic of Namibia’s curriculum requirements is that students should earn 10 percent of their degree credits by gaining real work experience.
It is joining a global trend that places emphasis in real work experience before students graduate.
“We want to expose our students to work ethics and place them in an industry where they belong because companies want products that are ready. Also we all need to be exposed to other cultures in one way or another,” says Tjama Tjivikua, Rector of the Polytechnic of Namibia.
He was appraising the local media on the work being done by the Centre for Co-operative Education (CCE), which was established three years ago with the mandate to build partnerships with industry for the purpose of work integrated learning.
The CCE will participate in the upcoming World Association for Co-operative Education in Durban, South Africa where it will present results of a pilot study carried out with three American students who were at the Polytechnic of Namibia on an exchange programme.
US Ambassador to Namibia, Wanda Nesbitt, says: “Internships allow students for a brief period of time to step out of their comfort zone and experience hands on learning experience.
“They also develop life skills, how to work in a group, how to take constructive criticism as well as to get a job well done.”
Ambassador Nesbitt says institutions of higher learning are increasingly realising that students don’t only need life skills, but work skills as well as they seek to become competitive in the market place.
“I should add that employers are realising that internships help them groom future employees,” she adds.
In an article titled “The True Value of an Internship”, Penny Loretto says internships can teach you more about what you do and what you don’t want to do. No one’s career path is a straight line. Everyone starts off with a vision of their ideal job, but this vision is really just a guess based purely on hypotheticals. A funny thing often happens when someone starts working at their ideal job, they realise it’s not so ideal for them after all.”
For Loretto, internships present an opportunity “to test drive different positions to see which ride you enjoy most”.
She goes on: “Ideally an internship will provide you with work experience that is directly related to your major. If your internship falls short in this department, keep in mind that you are learning something else that may be even more valuable in the long run.
“All internships teach you soft skills, and every employer is looking for soft skills (which is why behavioural interviewing is so prevalent).
“Most employers rank interpersonal, communication and teamwork skills above technical aptitude. There’s no better way to acquire these skills than to jump into a corporate environment…
“This is truly on-the-job training! You may not personally see a difference in yourself, but I promise you will leave a bit wiser, more mature, more confident, and a better candidate for the next internship or full-time job.”
Writing for CNN online, Beth Braccio Hering says internships have become a valuable aspect of full-time job-seeking.
She quotes Melissa Benca, director of career services at Marymount Manhattan College in New York City, saying: “Graduating students with paid or unpaid internships on their résumé have a much better chance at landing a full-time position upon graduation.
“Students are doing internships as undergraduates, and it is now not unusual for recent grads to take an unpaid internship with hopes of turning it into a permanent position or at least making some contacts and building their résumé…
“In this economic downturn, employers are relying increasingly on interns to shore up areas where full-time hiring has been cut.”

The pros of internship
Besides getting a foot in the door with a potential employer and looking good on a résumé, internships have other advantages:
• The opportunity to “test drive” a career (Would I be happier in marketing or advertising? Am I more comfortable working with patients or in a lab?)
• Chances to network
• Establishing relationships with mentors
• Possible college credit or certification
• An introduction to the field's culture and etiquette (Are clients addressed by their first name? Are jeans appropriate for Casual Friday?)
• Accumulating new skills
• Gaining a “real world” perspective on an occupation (How much overtime do employees really work? How much time is spent behind a desk versus in the field?) – CNN

June 2013
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