Through Internship Programs, students are able to grasp the real market concepts, new to them, apart from textbooks


Aug 26 - Sep 01, 2002


Yearly, 10,000 students from numerous universities intern at many companies. Internship Programs employed by many renowned companies like P&G, Levers, and the like provide a platform of learning and practical skill.

Benefits of Internship Programs are many. Students gain practical skill and experience in their field of interest. During and after internships, students are confronted with an entirely different market scenario. Through Internship Programs, students are able to grasp the real market concepts, new to them, apart from textbooks. Different, often older, technologies exist in the corporate sector, than that which is budding. It is in the market, the jagged teeth of reality bite.

From the start, students build a temperament to work in and as an organization. Motivation exceeds by seeing and working among intellectuals. Students, for the first time, realize shortcomings on their part regarding skill and knowledge. Often, students convey this new trend to their professors and fellow students, and work to overcome these inefficiencies. In effect, students comprehend aspects of life that demand their utmost attention. A sense of responsibility is endowed upon their shoulders, and they realize they are held accountable for their actions. Students learn new things and gain insight into new ideas. More important, students learn to work under a boss.

Pakistan, as other countries, regulates Internship Programs for the development of youth and labour. Under this act, companies and institutions become obligated to collaborate to formalize Internship Programs.

Universities, realizing their graduates are demanded, try to maintain a balance of theoretical as well as practical knowledge. It is the Internship Program that provides the gateway for practical skill and experience.

Internship Programs may in fact become economically justifiable if they were to provide benefits greater than the underlying costs to the internee and the organization. However, the reality is converse. The fact of the matter is, many Internship Programs fail in many areas.

Internships become compulsory at higher levels of education, bearing a feeling that working in an organization before graduation shall permit the students to engage in activities that will help them in their practical profession. On the contrary, it is rarely seen that students are allowed to fully exercise the benefits of their internship.

Three key players in this agenda are the internee, institution and the company. All equally share the burden of debt, but the greatest role is seen of the company, being the greatest beneficiary.

In universities or institutions, all internship related activities are the responsibility of the Placement Office. The head of this department is the Placement Officer. It often so happens that Placement Officers are unaware of details of the candidates who have been chosen by companies, and also of those who have been rejected and are hoping that the Placement Office shall do them justice.

It only surprises you when you receive a call one fine morning. "Dear, have you been called by any company?" he asks. "No sir, I have tried but it seems that all positions are occupied. I am dependent on you now." I proclaim. "Ok. Well, Saudi Pak Commercial Bank has asked for internees to fill their MIS department. Are you interested?" he asks. "Yes sir." I quickly reply. "Do you know MS Office? They are looking for people who can work in MS Office." he asks. Startled, I said "Sir I am an MCS." Thus, improvements in the institution start with improvements in the Placement Office. It shall be beneficial if Placement Officers were well informed about the capabilities and skill of their students.

Another complaint heard from students against the Placement Office is related with notice delays. The Placement Office is unable to handle the volume of applications for internship, resulting in delays and missed dates.

Also, synchronization on part of the companies is required. All companies do not issue requests for internees in the same period. Some arrive even months later. Due to this, students remain unaware and confused of better offers ahead, falling short on a previous offer.

The rules of applying for internship are such that one candidate may apply to one company only. If a better offer comes independently, he/she must settle for the former one. Definitely, the reputation of the institutions is at stake. In future, companies will refrain from calling upon universities to supply their fresh recruits for internships if they see that students find other places worthwhile. Still, it is favourable that rules for applying be made flexible.

Companies often fall short on selecting candidates purely on merit and skill. The matter is to be highlighted in red ink. Companies are required to review and also implement their ethics policy. It can be seen that companies can well curb the benefits derived from Internship Programs. It is advisable for companies to engage in a revised program for selecting internees.

One major problem haunting the minds of students is that of selection. Students rely on their resources and networks heavily. Those who are fortunate do not prepare and work as hard as unfortunate students who have nothing to show for themselves, but hard work and dedication. Thus, it is safe to say that often selection depends upon criteria other than merit and due qualification. Another issue is regarding dishonest acts and use of unfair means to attempt questions in aptitude tests. Even renowned companies become victim of mismanagement at testing centers, like P&G tests held at Reagent Plaza in March of year 2002, followed by Citibank tests for internship.

Thus, companies are required to revise their ethics policy regarding control and selection of internees to complement their Internship Programs. One alternative is to maintain an ongoing profile of potential candidates throughout their student life, and handpick those who possess consistently improving grades. A practice well exercised in the US. Benefits are reaped likewise.

Student Monitoring Plans shall promote educational strive as students compete purely on the basis of skill and knowledge of the subject. This solution proposes that students are treated equally, rather than equitably. Also, students feel disheartened when they see academically poorer performance students in a better organization than his. It has even been seen that core Computer Science students are interning in Brand Management and the like, a field completely different from their profession. Thus, the criteria for selection should be clearly defined before hand, such that the process is transparent.

This system of recruitment shall justify their expenditures for Internship Programs. It is yet to be seen as no institution or company in Pakistan has yet engaged in any student monitoring plans.

Companies nearly spend between 2% and 4% every year on Internship Programs. If returns on these investments could be quantified, it will clearly show that Internship Programs are lacking the desired attention, resulting in more loss than benefit to the economy.

Not only does such deficient Internship Program hurt the internee, but also the organization as a whole. Many internees bring back souvenirs in form of reputation and feedback towards the company. It is often negative. In effect, inability of the companies to judge and utilize the potential of the young student by having him or her attend phone calls or take printouts or prepare presentations deteriorates its own reputation in the market. A person feels frustrated when overworked, but violated when under worked. Clearly, in later years, students will forbear interning at such companies who undermine the potential of the internees. At least, it is true for those who understand the virtue of quality work.

The institution should be observant of such shortcomings on behalf of the students as well as the companies. It is often preferable to intern in large multi-national companies. Ironically, students expect lesser workload and greater tolerance to ignorance in such companies and opt to relax through their internships. The university shall have to observe such failure on part of the students. Universities need to emphasize the importance of surveillance and control. They must be alert and obtain feedback from internees during and after completion of internships. Indeed, interviewing 600 internees is not an easy task. Keep in mind; two wrongs never make a right.

Internees are required by regulation to submit a report of their internship experience. The purpose of this report is to obtain insight into the internee's work experience and offer judgment to pass or fail. Sadly, many of these reports go unread and pile up in the storeroom. Companies are also advised to install monitoring systems that are able to detect manipulation of productive office time.

Students are required to approach this issue rationally in the light of knowledge and economics. There is a general consensus that such companies can shine their resumes, when they apply for permanent jobs in the near future. In effect, this approach is applicable only in the short run. All that glitters is not gold. The market requires technical expertise and practical experience that cannot be predicted by resumes alone. In the long run, these qualities are not overlooked and may jeopardize the future of the candidate.

Often, companies do not have place and equipment ready for internees. Much time is wasted just preparing a fresh PC and installing Windows. It may even take weeks. It is even seen in small newly started software houses that internees bring their own computers with them to work.

Although internees remain a few good days only, they also deserve similar treatment as other employees, if not the same, and seen as individuals who may also contribute positively towards the well being of the organization. Often, internees feel misused or under-utilized. They are not assigned capable work, and are found attending phone calls, preparing messages, taking photocopies, or performing other clerical duties alike, or even chatting in the board room having no other place to sit. Men are seen photocopying, while ladies are seen phone sitting. Such malpractice is commonplace.

Also, companies should clearly follow a strict selection program, informing universities in advance as to how many students they require and of what skills and background. In this context, BP Pakistan selected four internees from IBA as noted on bulletin boards in the halls of the institute. Conversely, there are over twenty students only from IBA interning at BP. What had been the criteria? God knows better.

Another issue is of rotation. Internees have petty time to grasp the essence of tasks assigned. It would be beneficial for them if they could focus in one area, rather than rotate from department to department. Thus, rotation should be minimized, and specialization be promoted.

Often, companies favour extra curricular activities in students, even if this means skipping a class or two. Students are found missing classes to attend meetings, or even to clear bad cheques. Everyone is familiar with policies of student politics. A similar solution proposed here is the implementation of student monitoring plans.

Having analyzed inefficiencies in Internship Programs, can we say the benefits of internships outweigh the costs? Are Internship Programs also victims of bureaucracy and red tapes? In other words, are Internship Programs economically justifiable? At least not to a great extent.

On an endnote, hats off to companies who have proven their commitment towards education and Internship Programs. Surely, it is in mutual benefit.