The entire exercise of seeking internship begins with the dispatch of correspondence to prospective firms and establishments. Negotiations on the number of internships positions, terms and conditions of tasks, duration and reporting protocols are part of the routine followed worldwide.

It is a moment of excitement for the young students, who compete for internship slots, when they are selected to experience a work environment first-hand.

In great firms and organizations that routinely accept student interns, the programmes are well organized and students are facilitated in a meticulous manner.

Students are handed a complete description of their assignment and milestones to be achieved, details of contact persons or departments which can guide them in drawing up or structuring schedules, and so on.

The students gain a lot in terms of understanding the field of work and the organisational culture as well as professional values. Some organisations pre-test the students to assess their capabilities and interest during the first few days of work. Thereafter, they are placed in departments where their input can be effectively utilised.

The objective is to provide students an opportunity to observe the practice and applications of theoretical concepts. For instance, many students are able to obtain hands-on experience with state-of-the-art software packages.

Engineering students work with machinery they learn about in class-rooms. Students of architecture get to work on designs that are already in the process of being executed.

There is a downside though. Some students complain about the lack of prior planning in host firms. Mundane work is assigned to them. Tasks such as sifting through redundant office records, making cumbersome inventories, doing data entry operations etc, are practically invented to keep the students ''busy''.

Due to reasons of confidentiality, they are nor allowed to enter spaces where commercially important operations are underway. In some cases the students are asked to to leave early; they are not allowed to benefit from their association with the organisation.

Students also bring back tales of substandard work. Such experiences can leave students utterly disillusioned.

Besides, in many cases, interns do not receive orientation material or a task list, rendering them directionless. Many firms don't advertise or liaise with university managements. Similarly, some placement offices in universities are slow to respond to the queries of prospective employers.

Issues related to gender sensitization are also crucial. In most of the developing world about half of the student body in institutions of higher learning compromises young women, who, like their male counterparts, apply to and are accepted by various organizations for internships in their respective areas of interest.

However, incidents of harassment of various kinds have been reported by some of these students. Undesirable gestures, indecent remarks and uncouth conduct on part of some staff members appear to be quite common.

The women students have tended not to report such situations to the management of the organizations where they are interning. Such events shatter their image of business world and their is apprehension on their part when it comes to stepping in the job market after graduation. Besides their self confidence can suffer enormously.

The World Students Society thanks author Noman Ahmed.


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