Many government departments and private companies are currently advertising their internship programmes to afford graduates the opportunity to gain industry-specific knowledge, skills and values through structured workplace experience. The experience is intended to enhance a student's academic, career, and personal development.
For the interns, working as part of a team on a variety of projects holds many benefits. To name a few: they gain industry knowledge they might not find anywhere else; accumulate evidence of their abilities that is verifiable by a supervisor; make critical professional contacts; improve their confidence; increase their levels of responsibility; identify further opportunities in the market; and possibly land a full-time job.
For the employers in turn, internship programmes have benefits such as being able to test out a new working relationships, in which an extra sets of hands is available to help complete projects, offer a fresh perspective on business strategies and plans, develop a business’s mentorship culture or recruiting full-time employees. These benefits do, however, come at a cost as internship programmes present a huge administrative load which must be carried in addition to an organisation’s core business activities.
“Internships differ from learnerships as they do not lead to a formal qualification delivered by accredited providers and therefore place the responsibility for managing the academic, career, and personal development of graduates squarely on the employer” said Thamary Jani, Manager of a CETA funded internship programme for Built Environment Professionals.
Employers therefore have to ensure that interns work under a supervisor who must take responsibility for their work. In addition, mentors must be allocated to monitor and support development of the intern for the duration, including ensuring that:
Interns have a variety of projects, and activities structured according to each interns’ development requirements.
Interns increase their level of responsibility over time.
Intern progress is tracked, development areas identified and addressed.
Interns submit evidence of their structured experience.