How to embrace and smoothen an internship model
By Ilke Platt, Founder Poiyah Media.
An internship is a formal programme offered by organisations to assist students and recent graduates in training and gaining work experience. The goal of an internship or apprenticeship is to learn new skills to secure future employment.
Various organisations are urged to embrace internships; however; are companies well equipped to apply this model to their work demand and entrusting employees to transfer skills and knowledge to a student, that is yet to learn and work at the same time?
Poiyah Media has embraced this model since its inception and there have been advantages and disadvantages from an employers’ point of view and students. Some various challenges may include interns that lack guidance from their supervisors. Given that most interns have never worked in a real working environment, they will need guidance and direction from their supervisors, if the organisation expects them to produce quality work. This often leads to frustration from a busy corporate as the demand to deliver is a high priority, as well as to groom an intern.
Interns also face the challenge of being assigned tasks that they are unfamiliar with or they lack the knowledge. This is exhausting and unfair because interns are expected to do tasks that they do not know and at times have nothing to do with their career choice, due to the need to accumulate work experience.
MTC is one of many organisations that recognises the value of internships and provides funding for them. MTC has allowed providing funds to interns at various organisations, with Poiyah Media being one of them. MTC’s chief human capital officer Tim Ekandjo recently announced that they are now ready to upscale their internship project to become a national vehicle for internships. MTC and the Office of the Prime Minister will collectively contribute N$2 million per annum, while Ekandjo added that nationally, 48,000 students are in dire need of internships to graduate.
The question remains, is an internship model well understood within the organisation, and are mentors assigned to supervise, and geared for this additional task while carrying out their daily job description?
Are there mechanisms put in place when companies find this model quite challenging especially if interns struggle to cope with work? The most critical aspect of any internship is to delegate and not spoon-feed too much. Have them develop a personal time management plan and present it so that you, as the manager, can learn about your intern’s work capability and capacity. This also allows for more efficient communication and the ability for them to manage themselves and take ownership of tasks.
Another way to ensure that interns deliver is to keep them motivated throughout their internship programme. Make it clear to them that they are a valuable asset to the company and that their efforts are appreciated. A company can either make or break the character of an intern. There must be a clear line between correcting, to help improve their skills and destructive criticism which could lead to a toxic working environment for an intern to learn and enjoy the experience. Supervisors must check in with an intern’s mental wellness which is a high priority for their execution of tasks. A demotivated intern can allow much delay in projects and must be monitored closely with a coping mechanism to ensure that work requirements are well understood and that they can complete a given task.
As employers, keep in mind that interns who are students have a lot of school work to balance, so ensure that their timetable is aligned with the hours that are needed from their respective universities. Allow them to present their work schedules so that you can determine the amount of workload you can assign to them. Be realistic with work demands.
They are still new and have never been exposed to a working environment which may be an overwhelming experience. Employers should also avoid assigning interns too many tasks at once. This can result in a state of panic, as well as poor quality work delivery.
In conclusion, to ensure that your internship model works within your organisation, you must understand how to effectively communicate with interns. Allow interns to express themselves and to provide feedback freely and frequently. Create a happy working environment to further enhance their fullest potential. It is also critical to provide them with the resources they may require to complete their tasks. This will result in high-quality work and a pleasant working environment not only for interns but for everyone in the organisation.