Job adverts usually annoy university students or fresh graduates. Reason? Because they ask for work experience which they usually don’t have. Out of frustration, some students have joked that a university that offers ‘experience degrees’ be set up to cater for the growing number of inexperienced graduates in Rwanda and the region. Could this be the reason why there are more interns and apprentices in various organisations?
Findings from a survey conducted by Graduate Advantage prove that internships do create jobs for graduates? According to the study, 81% of interns are now employed and 74% of those are either in permanent employment or are on a long term contract. Of these, 68% believe their internship helped them to gain their current position and an impressive 33% are still working with their internship organization.
Teachers speak out
Richard Rugwe, a teacher at St Famile, says they encourage their students to do internship to get a practical experience of the world since most of what they study is theoretical.
“It is through internship and apprenticeship that someone applies the knowledge they have acquired. One also learns a number of skills while interning. For instance I had never appreciated the value of team work until I did internship many years back,” Rugwe explains.
Violate Munyana, an English teacher at Gabiro High School, echoes Rugwe’s thoughts.
“Internship and apprenticeship are the way to go because they equip interns with good communication skills and problem solving abilities that everyone needs in their daily interaction with others,” she says.
Much as most schools agree that internship and apprenticeship is good for their students, very few, especially at secondary level, direct their learners to spend their holidays acclimatising themselves with different work environments. However, Riviera High School and Gashora Girls and a few others have made internship part of the student’s programme.
According to Saturday January, a teacher at Riviera High School, the school helps students find internship placements in line with their talents and interests.
“Some are attached to media houses and banking institutions among others. After a month or two ‘working’ these students are more mature in thinking and approach,” January notes.
What employers think
Moses Gahigi, the executive director of Fight Illiteracy Youth Organization Rwanda, believes internship helps one gain experience and expertise. But he has a bone to pick with many of them.
“Most interns are more interested in making money than acquiring skills which is wrong. That is why many organisations are reluctant to take on interns,” he says.
“Recently we had a project and recruited volunteers to work with. We were taking care of their meals and transport needs but with no salary. Surprisingly, the two interns ‘abandoned’ us after learning that they would begin receiving a salary after three months.”
Gahigi says someone ought to do internship for a period of between six months and one year if they are to benefit.
“An intern also stands a chance of being retained by a company if they are disciplined and hard working,” he advises.
Jennifer Mukangarambe, a businesswoman and a graduate in business administration, says she has never had a better training opportunity than internship.
“I worked with a bank during my internship and I learnt a lot from more knowledgeable and experienced people. Some of what I learnt during that period was handy in running my business,” she explains.
An editor with one of the leading newspapers in the region, notes that without internship, newsrooms across the world would struggle to identify good writers.
“You cannot be a journalist without practicing. You can only learn and improve as a writer by writing articles, and you don’t need to first finish school to start writing,” he says, adding that most great writers start at a tender age.
Interns share their experience
Erina Kelly Nyiraneza, a student at Riviera High School and an intern at The New Times, says she has learnt a lot about journalism in the last one month.
“I have learnt how to interview all categories of people and gained confidence as a writer. A number of my articles have been published and I really feel proud of my achievement,” she explains.
Richard Kalisa, a student at University of Rwanda College of Education and currently doing school practice at Essa Nyarugunga, says internship is worth it.
“Senior teachers engage us in several activities which promote team spirit and solidarity. School practice has helped me read widely to avoid humiliation by students in class and also boosted by confidence,” he notes.
Kalisa says he has also mastered how to design lesson plans and schemes of work.
However, not everyone has found internship to be fun.
“Sometimes the working conditions for interns are so terrible. For instance during my internship with a road construction company, we used to spend the whole day under the scorching sun. I got so fed up that I even thought of changing course,” Lawrence Mutika, an engineer working in Rwanda, says of his internship experience.
For Maureen Mbabazi, a communications expert, internship will always remind her of the sexual harassment she went through.
“The people who were supposed to mentor me were always putting me under pressure to sleep with them. After one week, I quit and sat home until the end of the holiday,” Mbabazi says.
But financial challenges also make internship difficult. Wilbur Agaba, a parent of three, says many parents know the value of internship and apprenticeship but cannot afford to feed and provide transport to their children daily.
What the public thinks
Internship is very good because it boosts a student’s confidence and equips one with practical skills. However, some organisations mistreat interns. They neither provide them with lunch nor facilitate their transport yet they expect them to report early on a daily basis.
All employment placements currently demand for solid work experience that ranges from one year and above. In case you think only school work is going to earn you a job, you may be wrong. I would encourage every student to consider doing internship in order to gain some experience.
Internship is really good platform for the intern to shine. Some are even retained when they perform well. Unfortunately, some employers like to exploit interns. They take leave and pass on all the work to the unpaid students.
I think internship is really important since it introduces students to the real world. It only becomes challenging when interns are bullied at the work place or denied work space.
It’s always good to have both theoretical and practical knowledge in order to stand a high chance of being hired. Even if one is not paid salary, the knowledge and experience one gets from an organisation is invaluable.
Internship is necessary for someone who intends to join the working class. But sexual assaults by bosses sometimes scares away potential interns. Companies should put this bad habit to a stop.