NAIROBI, KENYA: A heated debate raged on Twitter at the start of the week under #PayInterns pitting those who support the payment of interns against those who are opposed to it.
An intern is an unemployed person with relevant qualifications who has entered into a contract with an organisation for a period of between three and twelve months with the intent of acquiring relevant work experience to increase chances of employability.
According to Nelly Mutula, Head of Human Resources at Fuzu, internship gives young people the opportunity to consolidate and translate the skills learned from their training into a meaningful, relevant and practical on-the-job experience.
Nelly says, "it is also an avenue to connect with the world outside of studies and to gain insights for further growth and development either in education or workforce. By being at the worksite, the interns get a first-hand perspective of the skills and attributes required for employment".
The Public Service Commission (PSC) mandates government bodies to pay interns a stipend. According to PSC Internship Policy Clause 2.6, internship shall be non-remunerative, but interns will be paid a stipend as may be determined by the Commission from time to time.
Some private organisations pay interns a small stipend to cater for daily expenses. However, others chose not to do so for various reasons such as cutting down on employees' costs.
Sam Gichuru CEO Nailab who is opposed to paying interns tweeted, "Interns can be assets, but mostly they are a liability to the company until they learn the job and deliver results."
So, should all organisations pay interns? Standard Digital asked Kenyans to comment on the issue and below are their positions on the matter:
Stephen Ngari CEO and President Toodaa Group told Standard Digital that internship should not be a paid-up job since organisations incur certain costs to facilitate the intern learn.
"Office space is paid, telephone is paid, office teas or coffees are provided, toiletries, transport to company meetings are all provided for," he said.
Ngari lamented that most of the graduates nowadays cannot fluently express themselves in an official language let alone perform professional duties.
"They need training. They must accept to meet the cost that pertains to themselves. Interns do not give a guarantee to perform; it is their duty to demonstrate value. My advice to the youth is, everyone is willing to pay for value. Value is never perceived; it is demonstrated and earned" he said.
Also, George Karimi Founder and CEO Swiftaide was of the opinion that interns should work free, but advised them to look for other ways of making money to cater for their expenses.
"You should take advantage of the opportunity a company gives you to work with them to network and learn the tools of the trade. I understand you cannot fulfil your basic needs without money but in today's digital age we have so many avenues to make money on the side especially in the gig economy and if you are passionate enough, you will find a way to survive" George said.
Mark Mwithaga an intern at Pulse Live Kenya told Standard Digital that interns should be paid just like other employees rendering services to the company employed.
"They also contribute to the company's growth just like paid employees. What most employers forget is that times have changed. As much as interns are people in the learning process, they are like every other person working to earn a living, meaning they have bills to pay and other expenses to sort out. The cost of living has gone high, and certain things have to be sustained" he said.
According to Mark, "interns can't keep going back to their pockets each time to fund their transport to work if they even do not have the money for that. The stipend given goes a long way to boost even their morale, as they feel appreciated and part and parcel of the company."
Nelly Mutula advised graduates to accept an unpaid internship.
"This is an opportunity for you to prove to the employer that you can be helpful and proactive in growing the business. If they are fair, they will reward you with either a stipend, fixed contract or permanent opportunity within the organisation. Remember if I pay you for a service, I will expect more from you. At Fuzu, some of our best employees now were once interns. Did we pay for them? Yes, we give a stipend which motivated them to do more" she added.
Among the companies that pay, interns are Safaricom, BBC, and Standard Group.